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This time of year when the excitement of Christmas is over, but the weather is still cold and grey is a fantastic time to create a bit of cosiness by curling up with a traditional tale or two. Reading stories to children is an essential activity to help children learn speech and communication skills and helping children learn new stories also enhances their cultural capital. Sharing traditional stories can help us feel connected to our own childhoods and are part of our wider cultural heritage. There is also a fantastic wealth of life lessons that can be learned by thinking about the messages contained in these stories.
When choosing a traditional tale to share with your children it can help to think about the following:
- What stories do the children already know? Do you want to focus more on one you have already read so that all the children can get to know it really well, or do you want to introduce a completely new story?
- Consider the cultural background of the children you care for. Do you share stories that reflect their culture and history? Perhaps the children’s parents can suggest some stories that they shared when they were little.
- Have you got any learning intentions you want to be able to tie into the story, for example learning about sizes or stranger danger with ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ the importance of helping out with ‘The Little Red Hen,’ or simple counting skills with ‘The Three Billy Goats Gruff.’
- Are you going to read the story from a book? If so think about the language in the version you have chosen. Do they have any repeating phrases that can help children learn language? Is the language challenging enough with different words to learn but not too hard to understand that the children loose interest? There tends to be lots of different versions of traditional tales so you can find one suitable for the age and developmental stage of the children in your care.
- Do the children actually like the story? A story can fulfil all of the above requirements but if the children do not engage with it then it is pretty pointless!
Tips for getting the most out of the story when reading it with the children:
- Read the story several times until the children get to know it. (This can be done over a few days – you do not need to sit there reading it on loop!) Make sure all the children know the story well. By doing this you are helping increase each child’s cultural capital.
- When the children know the story well enough to anticipate which part of the story comes next encourage them to join in with repeated phrases and new words.
- Get the children to act out the story while you read it to them. Can they make up different actions to go with different parts or characters of the story?
- Can the children think of simple changes they would like to introduce to the story. For example if you are reading ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears,’ maybe the bears have pancakes for breakfast instead of porridge? This helps children take ownership of the story and also begin to understand the structures of storytelling.
Tips for telling the story to children instead of reading it from a book:
Although reading books to children is important there may be times that you simply want to tell the children a story instead. Telling a story without having a book to hold means you can have your hands free to use puppets or gestures to emphasise the words. It also means that, if you have a larger group of children that have to sit in front of you while you read, that there is no physical barrier between you and the children, meaning that you can relate more directly to them and their responses to the story. (In childminding settings with just one or two children this isn’t such an issue as they will normally be sitting on your knee as you read to them.)
- Use your body language and gestures to help tell the story. If a character is feeling cold, wrap your arms around yourself and shiver dramatically, if a giant appears, shade your eyes and peer upwards as if looking at them. Using gestures like this to emphasise your words will help children understand the story even if they cannot see any pictures. Encourage the children to copy your actions. In this way even non-verbal children can join in and show their understanding of the story.
- Think about how you can use your voice as you tell the story. Use a quiet voice when a character is creeping up to someone or a loud voice if you are pretending to be a giant! Children love it if you use different voices for different characters but don’t make voices too silly as this will distract the children from the story itself.
- Don’t think that you can’t move about. Why not tell a story outside and when the characters move – so do you! As long as the story remains the main focus you can act out running from a dragon, trip trapping over a bridge or climbing up a beanstalk.
Things to do so that children and parents can extend their learning:
- Provide puppets and props (don’t forget dressing up props if they are suitable for the story and you have them!) for the children to tell the story themselves during free play.
- Leave the story book somewhere accessible to the children so that they can request it when they want you to read it to them even when you have moved onto other books or stories.
- Share versions of the story with the children’s parents so that they can help continue the learning at home. (Worried about lending out your precious books to forgetful parents? Check out the solution below!)
Products that can help you explore traditional stories with your children:
Members of the Childminding Best Practice Club receive monthly toolkits bursting with information, ideas and support. These include special Traditional Tale focused Toolkits.
These toolkits have a wealth of resources to help you share traditional tales with your children. Including things like:
Specially rewritten and illustrated childminder friendly versions of different traditional tales. Print out as many copies as you need to share with parents.
Resources to compliment the story such as posters or games.
Ideas for crafts and activities you can do to go with the story theme.
Full set of planning covering every area of learning.
Hand drawn colouring sheet
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