Over the past year I have found it interesting that during these strange times it is the power of stories and reading that are being used most as settings connect remotely with children and families. We have seen, heard of and shared so many creative approaches that settings have used to stay in touch with and connected to the children and families, but most feature story reading /story telling as a common thread. I have seen many Early Childhood Ireland member settings use Facebook as a medium to feature educators reading books and telling stories, both in the setting and outside. Some settings have used a dedicated, familiar space to read and tell stories (such as Samantha Hallows in her Super Shed, Cottage Childcare reading stories in front of the familiar mountains and Helen Dowling as featured in this week’s Early Times Weekly to mention a few). I’ve also seen an educator take well-loved puppets to various familiar, local places during the various closures, such as the beach, to read favourite stories. Members have used video to tell the story, in advance of reopening, of how the setting might look and feel a bit different, but still familiar. Telling and sharing the stories is a common thread that settings have used to stay connected. In this week of World Book Day, it is fitting to acknowledge the power of stories, books and reading.
For as long as I can remember I have loved reading. I recall, as a child wanting to savour books and deciding to ration a new book to a chapter a day and then not being able to resist: just one more chapter, just one more chapter. There was a fanlight over my bedroom door, which I hated because my parents could see when I had my light on reading late into the night and would make me turn it off! I still sleep with the light on now…because I always fall asleep reading! My Kindle is a treasured possession, making travel (in normal times!) a lighter experience, as I no longer have to lug tonnes of books along!
Why do I love reading so much? I suppose it is the way a well-told story brings the reader to all kinds of places. I am currently re-reading Rosie Thomas’s novel ‘Iris and Ruby’, set mostly in Cairo. I have never been to Egypt…but as I read, I can feel the scorching heat of the sun, experience the crowded souk, walk the narrow, congested streets, feel a desert sandstorm, and smell the exotic, zesty aromas of food and spices. Good stories help a reader see other perspectives and can help a reader appreciate things and value things. Reading biographies or autobiographies can help us understand what motivates and inspires people to do what they do.
I recall seeing a skilled educator I worked with observing a child walking around eating a yoghurt. She gently asked him to sit down until he was finished, which he did. A little later it was storytime. She wove a lovely tale about a little boy she knew who fell while walking around with a spoon in his mouth and how sore his mouth was. This strategy of using a story to make the point was much more effective than a ‘lecture’, I thought!
When we introduce children to the joy of stories and reading, we are giving them not just the mechanics of oral and written literacy, we are also giving them a gift for life. With a book (real or virtual) in hand, sitting in a waiting room is less tedious, and new knowledge awaits. We can explore other places, spaces and galaxies. We can read the stories, tell the stories and make up the stories. Good picture books really give wings to the imagination. While looking at the pictures together the child and adult can create dozens of different stories or re-tell the same familiar ‘comfort blanket’ of a story as fancy strikes! And as author Liz Nugent says, ‘In order to be a writer, one must first be a reader.’
I came across this fitting quote from Mason Cooley “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” Enjoy World Book Day this week, treasure your books, and share them with the children in your life!
And for further World Book Day inspiration check out these links!