Reading Books in Early Childhood
Stories are an important part of any culture, English speaking or not. They can be oral or written and can showcase how culture works and their history. Whether old traditional stories or new popular current stories, the tales we share with young children can shape their developing ideas and values.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Rochelle L. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
How can you and your students benefit from storytelling?
When working with young children in Early Childhood settings, stories help children to make sense of their world, safely express their emotions, and explore new ideas and values. For example, a story that focuses on friendships might help a child who struggles to make connections with others. A story about different holiday celebrations around the world introduces the idea that we have differences and these are all acceptable in their culture. Stories that introduce new values can be explored in a non-judgemental way through stories. Young children are not yet capable of in-depth discussions around values and morals but are more open to listening to stories that may include these, especially if it is something they can relate to personally. Traditional tales, such as He Ika A Maui from New Zealand (explaining how the islands of New Zealand came into being) or The Great Race from China (describing the Chinese Zodiac origin), allow children to learn their (and others) cultural history, looking at the world and society through different perspectives. When choosing stories for young children care should be taken to provide a balance of ideas, values, and beliefs. For example, if children only experience stories about dads going to work and mums staying home to look after the children then this is how they will think the world works and they will struggle with discovering that mums work outside the home. Of course, these sorts of topics are very culture-based, and different cultures will support different beliefs. Stories are a great way to begin to challenge these though, in a non-threatening manner.
Stories in language learning
Stories are a way to build familiarity with common words, developing their word bank, and learning how the English language works. Stories help to build listening and speaking skills initially then move onto reading and writing. This is an especially vital resource for children who are learning English as an additional language. Hearing English spoken is a very necessary part of language acquisition for any young child and they pick up on the rules of language subconsciously as they enjoy the story. They learn about grammar, word patterns and structure, and pronunciation as they listen to and take part in retelling stories. Stories introduce new vocabulary that is not usually found in everyday conversation, e.g. a book about Antarctic Penguins. By revisiting familiar stories children develop their knowledge around letter sounds, rhyme, and listening and comprehension skills. As children gain this new knowledge, they then are more confident to use it themselves in their play and everyday life. It gives them a basis for trying out new words, sentences, saying, and ways of speaking.
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A 2019 study done by Ohio State University (appearing online in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics,) found that there was a difference of over 1 million words heard by preschool children who read 5 books a day versus those who were never read to. This highlights the importance of stories to children's language development. If children are not exposed regularly to language, they will be much slower in their language development. Stories are a very important part of Early Childhood development and can influence children in a variety of ways, from language development to building values and beliefs to building social and emotional knowledge. Whether in a formal education setting or the informal home setting, stories should be a common part of a young child’s life. The advantages of storytelling in all its many forms can only benefit a child and their early development.
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