Story Telling And Letting Your Child Help at Home

The Importance of Story Telling, Story Making and Literacy with The Early Years Child.

A rich story experience, both the reading and telling of, helps children internalise a living library of stories that become blueprints for their imagination and immediate lives. Stories are crucial to human development because they encourage writing; comprehension; abstract, critical and logical thought; memory and concentration, a sense of belonging, confidence and motivation; the ability to learn information and increase language. Our minds use story architecture to help us understand the world and build templates to explain and cope with experiences.
Story making should be a daily event and one in which the children become increasingly prominent as the narrator. The aim is to initially familiarise children with a story by reading it many times, allowing them to participate and then independently retell it. Once this has been achieved, the child can begin to imitate the story by substituting characters and places, adding elements in to the story, alter some of the sequence and change the viewpoint. Finally, they will be ready to make up their own story by reusing an underlying plot pattern, blend patterns and add new ideas, record them, illustrate them and act them out.
Which stories are suitable? The best ones are those which involve some form of participation by the child, such as chanting a repetitive section of the story or a rhyme. The child joins in until they know the whole story. This should not be confused with learning information by rote……it is about embedding the story pattern in them which they can later draw upon. You might have noticed how children ask for the same story over and over – this is because at approximately aged two to three years, children are very sensitive to acquiring narrative patterns as part of the language acquisition process, and this is obviously crucial to their development. As the child shows increasing familiarity, allow them to take over more and more of the story, until they can retell it on their own.
Our school uses specific books to develop this process along with many methods which ensure the children enjoy the activity. Familiarity is encouraged by using circle time to pass the story along, with the teacher providing the scaffolding when needed, retelling the stories in pairs, using pictures to jog the children’s’ memories (story maps), letting the children make their own story maps, using actions to accompany the words, discussing the stories in terms of feelings, motives, goals, struggles etc (which is part of our philosophy and logical thinking curriculum), using props, engaging in reinforcing activities such as dressing up, baking, craft activities etc, using story boxes for story creation and introducing grammar (in particular connective language such as until, next, then, so……)
Very importantly, remember that children are excellent imitators and if your tone is flat and unexciting…… will know where that has come from! So, use your eyes to hold their attention, vary the pace and volume of your voice and use facial expression to enhance the meaning. Pause and emphasise any feature you particularly want the child to internalise.
If you would like to look further in to the importance of stories and how they can have an effect on your child’s future success at school, there is a book giving a condensed overview of the research – “Story Proof” by Kendall Haven (2007).


Letting Your Child Help At Home

We often think that trying to get our children to help us at home or elsewhere would be more effort than it would be worth. We also tend to think that the only way to get children to help is to pressure them, through punishment or bribery, which, for good reasons, we may be loath to do. We ourselves generally think of work as something that people naturally don’t want to do and we pass that view on to our children, who then pass it on to their children.
But researchers have found strong evidence that very young children innately want to help and if allowed to do so will continue helping, voluntarily, through the rest of childhood and into adulthood. Here is some of that evidence.
In a classic research study, conducted more than 35 years ago, Harriet Rheingold (1982) observed children, ages 18, 24, and 30 months, interacting with their parent (mother in some cases, father in others) as the parent went about doing routine housework, such as folding laundry, dusting, sweeping the floor, clearing dishes off the table, and putting away items scattered on the floor. For the sake of the study, each parent was asked to work relatively slowly and allow their child to help if the child wanted, but not to ask the child to help or direct the child’s help through verbal instructions. The result was that all of these young children—80 in all–voluntarily helped do the work. Most of them helped with more than half of the tasks that the parent undertook, and some even began tasks before the parent got to them. Moreover, in Rheingold’s words, “The children carried out their efforts with quick and energetic movement, excited vocal intonations, animated facial expressions, and with delight in the finished task.”
More recently, many other studies have confirmed this apparently universal desire of toddlers to help. A common procedure is to bring the little child into the laboratory, allow him or her to play with toys in one part of the room, and then create a condition in which the experimenter needs help in another part of the room. For example, the experimenter might “accidentally” drop something onto the floor, over a barrier, and try but fail to reach it. The child, who is on the other side of the barrier from the experimenter, can help by picking the object up and handing it over the barrier to the experimenter. The key question is: Does the child come over and help without being asked? The answer is yes, in almost every case. All the experimenter has to do is draw attention to the fact, through a grunt and attempts to reach, that she is trying to get the object. Even infants as young as 14 months have been found regularly to help in these situations (Warneken & Tomasello, 2009). They see what the experimenter is trying to do, infer what she needs, and then, on their own initiative, satisfy that need.
This helping behavior is not done for some expected reward. In fact, Felix Warneken and Michael Tomasello (2008) found that giving a reward for helping reduces subsequent helping. In one experiment, they allowed 20-month-old children to help an experimenter in a variety of ways and either rewarded the child (with an opportunity to play with an attractive toy) or not. Then they tested the children with more opportunities to help, where no reward was offered. The result was that those who had been previously rewarded for helping were now much less likely to help than were those who had not been rewarded. Only 53% of the children in the previously rewarded condition helped, in this test, compare with 89% in the unrewarded condition.
It is evident that children are intrinsically motivated rather than extrinsically motivated to help, that is, they help because they want to be helpful, not because they expect to get something for it. Much other research has shown that rewards tend to undermine intrinsic motivation. For example, in one classic study, children who were rewarded for drawing a picture subsequently engaged in much less drawing than children who had not been rewarded for drawing (Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973). Rewards apparently change people’s attitude about a previously enjoyed activity, from something that one does for its own sake to something that one does primarily to get a reward. This occurs for adults as well as for children (Deci, Koestner & Ryan, 1999).
Parents and in some teachers in our culture, tend to make two mistakes regarding our little children’s desires to help. First, we brush their offers to help aside, because we are in a rush to get things done and we believe (often correctly) that the toddler’s “help” will slow us down or the toddler won’t do it right and we’ll have to do it over again. Second, if we do actually want help from the child, we offer some sort of deal, some reward, for doing it. In the first case we present the message to the child that he or she is not capable of helping; and in the second case we present the message that helping is something a person will do only if they get something in return.
In sum, the research described here suggests that, if you want your child to be a partner with you in taking responsibility for the family work, you should do the following:
• Assume it is the family work, and not just your work, which means not only that you are not the only person responsible to get it done but also that you must relinquish some of the control over how it is done. If you want it done exactly your way, you will either have to do it yourself or hire someone to do it.
• Assume that your toddler’s attempts to help are genuine and that, if you take the time to let the toddler help, with perhaps just a bit of cheerful guidance, he or she will eventually become good at it.
• Avoid demanding help, or bargaining for it, or rewarding it, or micromanaging it, as all of that undermines the child’s intrinsic motivation to help. A smile of pleasure and a pleasant “thank you” is good. That’s what your child wants, just as you want that from your child. Your child is helping in part to reinforce his or her bond with you.
• Realize that that your child is growing in very positive ways by helping. The helping is good not just for you, but also for your child. He or she acquires valued skills and feelings of personal empowerment, self-worth, and belonging by contributing to the family welfare. At the same time, when allowed to help, the child’s inborn altruism is nourished, not quashed.
Taken from an article in Pyschology Today, written by Peter Gray Ph.D.


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