Anela Halaković: Stories and Storytelling: how to go from listening to telling stories

Our civilization thrives on telling stories; they shape our perception of the world and the perspective from which we observe it. Cultural, social and dialogic forms of language are best perceived through the structure, form, and functioning of a story. For a long time now, scientists have debated on the narrative nature of the human mind, while the benefits of listening, reading, and telling stories from the earliest age have been long known as well as scientifically proven. It is known that the first few years in a child’s life are crucial for their intellectual, social, cognitive, and emotional development, so it is imperative from the parenting and societal standpoint to acquaint children with the concepts of story and storytelling.

Language is the most important medium for comprehending the world. Through speech and stories, a child discovers the diversity of the world around it, the different cultures, and acquires communication skills. Other than learning about the world, through reading children gain knowledge of themselves and learn how to convey emotions, opinions, and arguments.

One could conclude that linguistic competencies form the basis for all the other skills required to fully and successfully function in everyday life.

Reading to children and telling them stories help develop a multitude of skills, from pre-reading competencies, visual perception, ability to concentrate and focus to social and emotional intelligence.

Telling our own story is a kind of fulcrum of our modern world, and being able to tell stories, the ability to convert a chaotic mass of information into a coherent narrative is key to existing in the world and defining our own identity.

Who are we? What and who do we want to be? Where is our place in the world?

Stories provide tools for mapping out the answers to the aforementioned questions. They help us dive into sociability which is particularly polyphonic and dialogic, and therefore enable us to make sense of the cacophony and discord.

Grasping the structure of a story, recognizing the principles and causality between various occurrences and phenomena provide a child with a universal tool for problem contemplation and detection as well as devising a solution.

When it comes to reading or telling stories to children, it is of utmost importance to ensure that the process is interactive, two-sided, and dialogic. It is precisely dialogic reading, which implies actively including the child in the reading process (through questions, having them predict the plot or the resolution, etc.), that is one of the key steps in motivating the child to become a maker of its own stories.

By encouraging the child to create stories, to effectively toy with words, situations, and characters, we are providing it with the possibility to make the step from accumulating and reproducing knowledge to manifesting and mastering creativity. Imagination is a crucial element of every creative and innovative process and by mastering the techniques of storytelling children discover different pathways and explore new horizons.

The power of storytelling is a topic that goes well beyond literature, to which it is most commonly tied to. It is, in fact, a deeply political act that uncovers the deep-seated performativity of telling the stories.

In language, according to speech acts theory, we distinguish between constative and performative utterances, where the former describes reality while the latter has the power to produce it. Telling a story is a performative social act that can establish a new reality and thus new sociability.

Storytelling provides the answers to the questions of what stories are, what their effects are, and what their reach is, but also where we are and where our own personal story stands in comparison to those that have already been told.

To tell a story means to have the power to name and establish reality. Telling your story means having the ability to define your own identity which is a power few can conquer.

In order to motivate children to make up their own stories, different strategies can be used, including games. Due to the fact that games are the most effective way for children to acquire new skills and expand their knowledge, turning storytelling into a fun game might be the right approach. GIRI GAME, a card game that stimulates the development of storytelling skills, is based on that particular notion. By inspiring a child to shape a new reality through playing and creating a story by following instructions represented on GIRI cards, we enable the child to feel the freedom and power of active participation in the process.

Author: Anela Hakalović

Instagram account: Bajkologija

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