Helen Lumgair’s new book “Using Stories to Support Learning and Development in Early Childhood” is an inspiring and practical kaleidoscope of insight from different story professionals. I am in there singing the praises of sensory stories of course, and Helen kindly included a sensory story of mine for readers to explore themselves. It is based on the marvellous letters written by celebrities and notable persons of the time to the children of Troy when their library burned down, letters, that like this book, expounded the value of exploring narratives in order to educate, enrich and nurture oneself.
As someone who regularly talks about how important sharing stories is, not purely for entertainment but for mental well-being, education and your community, it was wonderful to read the words of so many people singing from the same hymn Sheet as me. I loved Helen’s ‘why’ of “because the stories of others compose the very threads of the universal fabric that connects us, allowing us to glimpse the humanity, the personhood of these so-called others”. Stories as the threads that the universal fabric of connection is made out of, how wonderful is that? And don’t they deserve closer inspection, those threads? Imagine how beautiful a fabric we could weave with greater understanding of our craft.
Through the pages of this book, that understanding is provided by a raft of different authors. Helen herself looks at stories as a whole-body process, exploring their relevance for the development of cognition in early childhood. Kanella Boukouvala tackles metaphor and Helen Garnett looks at play.
Dr Jo Van Herwegen tackles the initially surprising topic of stories and mathematics, surely stories belong in literacy and maths belongs in numeracy? But Dr Herwegen shows how mathematical understanding can be built through sharing stories, listing in her chapter stories that work well for different mathematical topics.
Dr Valerie Lovegreen explores stories in relation to language and cognition, noting the many linguistic skills that storytelling can develop and also recognising storytelling’s impact on self-confidence and our understanding of the emotions of others. Understanding others is a topic Helen returns to as she looks at the role stories play in countering prejudice and supporting identity in her chapter ‘Diversity and Representation in stories’, and again their benefits to us beyond our literary skills and understanding are examined as Helen explores their role in healing with powerful testimony from people who have found stories to help them as they coped with trauma.
Helen ends the book as powerfully as it begins with the words “At a time when the world feels increasingly fragmented, experiencing what would appear to be an epidemic of loneliness caused by advances in technology and a decline in real connection, it would make sense to focus on facilitating the growth of excellent communicators who contribute to society as listeners, speakers, critical thinkers and evaluators of the information presented to them. What we are aiming for in all of our educating is for children to become creative citizens who prioritise connection with others and act in a compassionate manner as individuals who construct peaceful lives and in turn peaceful societies”. This book will certainly help you strive towards this noble aim.
Joanna Grace is an international Sensory Engagement and Inclusion Specialist, trainer, author, TEDx speaker and founder of The Sensory Projects.
Consistently rated as “outstanding” by Ofsted, Joanna has taught in mainstream and special-school settings, connecting with pupils of all ages and abilities. To inform her work, Joanna draws on her own experience from her private and professional life as well as taking in all the information she can from the research archives. Joanna’s private life includes family members with disabilities and neurodivergent conditions and time spent as a registered foster carer for children with profound disabilities.
Joanna has published four practitioner books: “Multiple Multisensory Rooms: Myth Busting the Magic”, “Sensory Stories for Children and Teens”, “Sensory-Being for Sensory Beings” and “Sharing Sensory Stories and Conversations with People with Dementia”. and two inclusive sensory story children’s books: “Voyage to Arghan” and “Ernest and I”. There is new book coming out soon called ‘”The Subtle Spectrum” and her son has recently become the UK’s youngest published author with his book, “My Mummy is Autistic”.