Today at school the children had a treat. No numeracy, no phonics, no science..instead a day of story telling and story writing. How brilliant was that! Two local children’s authors paid us a visit. Actually I lie, only one came to visit, whilst the other was already at our school. One of our very own talented teaching assistants, a certain DJ McGhee has recently had his first childrens book, Space Invaders, published and is a big hit, especially with the boys. We are all very proud of him! Our other guest was Neil Griffiths. Neil was a headteacher here in Swindon and developed his highly popular Storysack idea amongst other things and has written a multitude of fabulous childrens picture story books.

alien invaders

neil GriffithsNeil Griffiths  http://www.cornertolearn.co.uk

The older children focused on Dean’s book, whilst the younger ones were captivated by Neil’s amazing gift as a storyteller. He made us laugh until our sides almost split. He involved the staff as well as the children, playfully ticking off teachers if they weren’t playing the part properly. This, of course, had the children in fits of giggles. Teachers being told off..whatever next! Neil brought his stories alive. The children were engrossed, their imaginations fired up and their little faces were a picture. It was a real joy to see.

Sadly storytime at school seems to be slotted in only when the busy curriculum allows. Stories are often used in literacy lesson plans, but usually to help children improve their writing rather than for enjoyment. This is fine as children get older but at the tender age of five and six it seems to take away a little of the magic and wonder a story can bestow. An example: The Gruffalo By Julia Donaldson is a fabulous story loved by many children, but I’ve seen it being dissected and used to search for time connectives, adjectives. repeated text and even for children to write the whole story themselves. By the end of the week they really have had enough of that little, brown mouse and the Gruffalo with its terrible claws and a fond liking of woodland animal meals! Such a shame.

the gruffalo

We live in a world that at times seems dominated by technology. Children from an early age seem to be glued to a screen and often are only able to recall a traditional tale or a more recently written story through watching it as interperated by Walt Disney and the likes. Now I’m not saying that this is entirely wrong, and yes, it is lovely to see characters brought alive, but who can recall going back years ago when the only interpretation of a story was the one you used in your head? When you created your own personal pictures and imagined how characters talked and looked. I remember fondly a childhood favourite of mine, The Wishing Chair by Enid Blyton where I was transported to a magical world of fairies, goblins, giants and witches. Christmas presents always included a story book or two to be read over and over again until they almost fell apart.

once upon a time

fairy

witches

All children love being told a story. I love reading stories to children and I’m lucky that even though my boys are now grown up I can still get carried away sharing a wonderful story to the little people in my class. We should read to our children from an early age. Sharing a book at bedtime is such a special experience and when they become confident readers, encourage them to read just before they go to sleep, or do what I did and take a torch to bed and read under the covers where its like being in a different world.

under the bedToday was lovely. I hope that we get to do it again before too long. Let’s encourage our children to listen to stories, talk about them and in time, to love reading them for themselves. Once a lover of a good story, always a lover of a good story!

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