How to Tell Kids A Story
- Apr 11, 2017
Since time immemorial, stories have been used as entertainment, teaching tools, warnings and much more. They follow set patterns and borrow from the familiar world in order to enthral the audience and deliver the lessons that they need to.
However, it isn’t just the stories that captivate the listeners – it is the storytellers who do so. The most interesting story can be rendered dull and boring and the most boring story can become absolutely scintillating depending upon how it is told. Therefore, the art of storytelling becomes as important as the story itself.
A lot of this art depends upon the audience you are catering to. Telling a story to other adults is just not the same as telling children different stories. While children love listening to stories more than adults do, the repertoire and techniques you use for them have to be quite different. Here is a look at what you need to keep in mind.
Listening and Repetition
Remember that young children will need to hear a particular story over and over again before they become conversant with it both on an intellectual and an emotional level. If you are a parent and are wondering why your child asks for the same bedtime story every night, well, now you know why. When children are engaged in a story, they tend to relate it to their own experiences and may even want to repeat some of these experiences to you. Since they tend to be more impatient than adults, they will probably not wait for the story to end before they share. To ensure that they feel free to relate these experiences, you can try designating a time to just sit and listen to what they have to say after the storytelling session is over. You can also make up verses as a participation song or you might want to assign partners to each child, so that they can relate their experiences to each other.
When it comes to letting you know how you are doing as a storyteller, children aren’t nearly as reticent as adults are. Younger children will be restless, move around or simply get up and leave if they don’t find your storytelling efforts up to the mark as far as they are concerned. If you are getting through to them they will sit and focus completely on you. They will gasp, laugh and shriek along with the characters in the story. If your audience is slightly older – say, older elementary age or adolescent – you may not get such immediate feedback. Such children are more concerned with being seen as ‘cool’ and won’t necessarily show you that they enjoyed what you did. Don’t mistake studied indifference for uninterest. Take cues from such things as body language or (in the case of younger children) their participation and decide whether you should continue what you are doing or change course.
How you talk to children to a great extent determines how they will respond to you. They know how you view them from the tone of voice you use while talking to them. A condescending tone will do nothing to endear you to your audience, especially if said audience is made up of pre-teens and/or adolescents. Even younger children recognise when you are simply being patronizing and don’t really see them as intelligent beings. If they feel that you don’t respect them, children will manage to resist you – either by withdrawing from you or by acting out. You need to ensure that your tone does not have any elements of condescension. It shouldn’t sound as though you are lecturing them. You cannot talk down to them and expect them to accept anything you say. However, when your tone is one of respect, you will be surprised at how receptive they are to your efforts to reach out.
Everyone agrees that storytelling is an art. Whether your audience is young or old, children or adults, you need to draw them into the world you create with the stories you tell. How you can go about doing this depends upon who is in your audience. Children are very honest critics and will tell you straight to your face how they liked your performance. Accept them as a discerning audience and adapt your methods to reach them. You will find that the reward is well worth the effort.
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