“Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.”

Most of us have heard this phrase and understand that it refers to starting storytime, even if we are too young to remember the original children’s BBC radio programme “Listen with mother” that it came from. For over 30 years, it was the cue for children all over the country to settle down and listen to songs, nursery rhymes and of course, stories.

As nursery professionals, you already know the educational importance of stories in your setting, and the way we all begin our learning journeys by listening to stories that are either read to us or orally presented to us by storytellers, be they our parents, teachers or professionals.

What is storytelling?

Oral storytelling is an ancient form of passing on knowledge for survival, education and recreational purposes. It is one of our oldest art forms and there is a society dedicated to its promotion and development. The Society for Storytelling (SFS) was founded in 1993 to support and promote storytelling in England and Wales and is now the go-to place for advice, workshops and practitioners alike. Every year, they organise and promote National Storytelling Week, which this year runs from the 1st to the 8th February and has events all around the country to get involved in.

National Storytelling Week was conceived in 2000 with the aim of increasing public awareness of the art, practice and value of oral storytelling. It is held during the first week of February every year – a week that is not too close to Christmas but which coincides with Candlemas on the 2nd of February. This old church festival traditionally included a blessing on the throat, one of the prime tools in the arsenal of nearly all storytellers of every belief and culture.

National Storytelling Week celebrates all things storytelling, including folk tales, fairy lore, phantoms, serpents, storms, dragons, and anything that can transform from a figment of someone’s imagination into a vivid and exciting auditory and sometimes, sensory experience. The SFS say:

“Wherever the events take place, the web of stories will be spun with sufficient magic between the breath of the teller and the ear of the listener.”

The week is also aimed at all ages and will be delivered by practitioners, storytelling groups, libraries, theatres, schools, nurseries and educational establishments in many different ways. There are workshops and live events to attend, and the SFS has produced a video and resource pack to help interested parties get involved.

You can get a copy of the resource pack by emailing membership@sfs.org.uk. It will be full of tools to teach storytelling to children including how to understand the essence of a story in only a few words or key moments which can help in mapping out story structures and as a starting point for drama. It will also look at the difference between simply reading a story and the engagement with an audience that storytelling induces.

Remember too that one of Parenta’s main expert contributors, Stacey Kelly is an expert in stories, using storytelling techniques to promote learning in children. Joanna Grace is another of our experts who creates stories, especially for children with sensory or special needs. You can access more information about Stacey Kelly’s work at www.earlyyearsstorybox.com or Joanna Grace’s work at www.thesensoryprojects.co.uk/sensory-stories.

Where can I find events near me?

The official website lists various events throughout the year and you can filter them by postcode, date and keyword so there’s plenty for everyone to choose from.

Links to the EYFS

Storytelling can be used to enhance many of the areas outlined in the EYFS for a number of reasons. It links directly to the areas of:

  • communication and language, and
  • expressive arts and design

Because you can cover a wide variety of subject matter in stories, it can also link to:

  • personal, social and emotional development
  • understanding the world, and
  • literacy

But storytelling and storytime are not necessarily the same thing. And storytelling and reading are also different, although related, activities. The new Education Inspection Framework recently introduced by Ofsted is placing importance on communication and language development for children, including storytelling in your settings, so this is a great week to explore the genre and find out more.

How you can get involved

The best way to get involved is to tell some stories. Everyone has a story to tell and you don’t need to be an expert in anything to tell your own story. Most of us tell stories to our friends, neighbours and even complete strangers sometimes, in one way or another, every day. And you really have nothing to lose by having a go.

Other things you could do to promote the week are:

  • attend events – libraries and theatres are a good place to start your search as well as on the SFS website
  • why not start a local storytelling group? It doesn’t just have to be for children either; you could have one just for the adults
  • organise your own events – perhaps you could get together with other local nurseries or run a ‘story-a-thon’ to raise money
  • hire a professional storyteller to visit your setting and deliver a workshop or storytelling session
  • encourage the students to tell their own stories and share them between friends and families

National Storytelling Week runs from 1–8th February, but the four days immediately before and after those dates are part of the festival of storytelling too. They are equally important as they are its fringes or preferably its “Coat Tales”, so make sure you’re sitting comfortably, and then begin!

 

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