Once upon a time, you were the best storyteller in all the land. The end. Here, author Pippa Chorley shares her top storytelling tips for parents.
Want to nail story time with the children and learn some top storytelling tips for parents? You’ve come to the right place! We asked children’s book author Pippa Chorley (the brains behind Stuffed, Counting Sheep and Out of the Box) for her expert advice. Read on, and you’ll all live happily ever after…
My top storytelling tips for parents, by Pippa Chorley
From the moment our children are born, us parents are bombarded with tips and tricks for raising the perfect little individual. But out of all of those pieces of advice, there’s one thing everyone can agree on – the importance of storytime! If we can help foster our children’s love of reading through storytelling, not only will they have a wider vocabulary and better understanding of grammar, but it will stimulate their imaginations and give them a better understanding of the world around them, too. Meaning they’ll become better-informed individuals… and we in turn can become smugger parents! With that in mind, here are my top storytelling tips for parents and how to raise little bookworms…
1. Let them choose the book
Kids love to take ownership of their choices and letting them choose which book they want gives them a voice. Of course, you should expect that most of the time they’ll choose a book you’ve read hundreds of times… or worse, can’t stand. But, if you want your children to be passionate about reading, they need to be allowed to discover for themselves what they love. Most of the time, that is!
Every now and then, it’s perfectly fine to have a small tantrum and choose your favourite book instead, or one about a topic you can’t wait to introduce them to, but otherwise it’s okay to be guided by them. Just make sure they have lots of variety – not just on subject, but also stories that reflect different genders, cultures and authors. This will help foster a love of diversity in their book choices that will in turn filter into their lives.
2. Use voices and do sound effects
This storytelling tip is an absolute must! (And anyway, who doesn’t love talking like a pirate, trumpeting like an elephant and generally making a fool of themselves in front of their children, right?) Not only does doing voices make storytime a source of family fun, but it will help your children to fully immerse themselves in the world of the story. And when a child engages deeply with a book, they enjoy it much more and are better equipped to answer questions about it afterwards, roleplay the story with their toys the next day, or turn it into a family classic!
The brilliant thing is, you don’t need to be Oscar-worthy to go the extra mile. It can be as simple as wearing a hat or mask while you tell the tale, bringing a stuffed toy or puppet along for the story too, or making one of the characters have a super squeaky voice and another talk really, really slooowwwwwly. And I promise you’ll have much more fun doing storytime too – honest! When we make storytelling fun for us, our children will feed off our enthusiasm and love it all the more, too.
3. Ask lots of questions to get them involved
This storytelling tip is where I put my ‘teacher’ hat on! Storytelling sessions are phenomenal teaching tools for kids. They teach listening skills, phonic awareness, visual literacy, critical thinking skills and comprehension to boot. They prompt discussions and help children form their own opinions about things. And it all begins with asking them a few simple questions.
For younger readers, this might be as basic as “Who is the main character?” For older readers, you might ask them, “Why do you think he’s dressed that way?” or “What do you think will happen next?” You don’t have to fire a dozen questions at your children every time you read them a story, but dropping in one or two here and there will definitely help deepen their understanding of stories and language in general.
4. Let them enjoy the pictures!
Many adults forget the vital role images play in the storytelling process. Pictures promote critical thinking and thought-provoking discussions (“Why is the setting painted so dark? What do you think is beyond that door?”). They invite discussion! Savour every picture in their picture books as if they are mini works of art because I honestly believe that taking the time to look closely at an illustrator’s work with your child is as worthwhile as taking them to an art gallery!
5. Keep the enjoyment going, even when the book ends
The thrill of reading a fabulous book doesn’t have to end on the last page. Here are a couple of my favourite things to do after reading a book (usually done the next day!) – they might inspire you to think of your own activities to prolong the fun.
Make their very own book: Staple together a few sheets of A4 paper and get them to draw things like the main character from the story you just read, the setting, and so on.
Act out the story: Help them make props out of junk material and costumes from your child’s dress-up box and talk about the setting for the story. Once your child is comfortable doing this, you can make it extra fun by putting a two-minute timer on their retelling.
These are both great ways to check they understood the key elements of the story. It also helps them develop confidence in recapping information and it definitely tests their listening skills. For slightly older children, you could ask them to draw or act out an alternative ending or add an extra page or scene saying what they thought would happen after the story ended.
6. Make up your own stories!
Want to know what a teddy bear, petrol station, fallen tree and magic healing unicorn all have in common? My four-year-old’s wild imagination. Once your children become accomplished at recapping the key elements of stories (main character, setting, problem and resolution), then you can use this same process to help them develop their very own stories.
At first, you can begin easy by giving them a character and setting, then asking what problem they think will occur in the story and how they might solve the problem. But eventually, they can choose the character and setting for themselves. The stories always end up wild and ridiculous but don’t worry, that’s all part of the fun of doing them!
About Pippa Chorley
Pippa grew up in a picturesque village in England. As a child, she spent her days dreaming up magical worlds and taking her stuffed toys with her on wild adventures. Pippa is delighted to bring her friends back to life in her second rhyming picture book, Stuffed!, which follows on from the success of Counting Sheep. Trained as a primary school teacher, Pippa loves to write her stories in rhyme. She lives in sunny Singapore with her husband, their three children and a gazillion stuffed toys. Find out more at pippachorleystories.com.