Ingredients: A piece of paper and a pen, or computer & printer

The Big Sell: To child: “How about you tell me a story for once?”

Strategy: My 3 year old loves books and always has. He takes a pile of them to bed with him at night and after we have finished reading to him, he carries on with his Fireman Sam torch. When I come back in the morning they are strewn all over his duvet. Not all children have this natural affinity with reading. My eldest son for example finds it a lot harder to sit still and focus, and although he’s always loved being read to, he shows little interest in reading to himself.

However, with both eager and reluctant readers, I’ve found if you invite a child to become the story-teller there is little to hold them back. There are lots of ways to do this, such as developing the technique of telling a Stepping Stone Story on a journey to school, using the Helicopter Drama technique or putting up a Blanket Den and inviting campers to tell a spooky story by torchlight inside.

However, sometimes the best story-telling moments are impromptu and worth seizing. I was sitting on the sofa with my 3 year old at lunch today and out of his mouth tumbled a completely original story. I immediately went to the computer, typed it up, added Clip Art, and brought it back to him as a published entity within 3 minutes flat.

The verdict:

I can’t describe the look on my 3 year olds face when faced with his very own story – it was a mixture of sheepishness, pride and glee. It had to be read back to him several times over and then we started to discuss how we could share his story – take it to read to brother when we pick him up from school? Read to Daddy at bedtime? Take it to show the other children at play group or grandparents next week? The possibilities for sharing his accomplishment belonged to him too.

And in the midst of this happy moment, it occurred to me that first time around with my eldest son, I tried many artistic ventures in the hope that I was planting a seed and it might someday lead to something. But second time around I have the benefit of hindsight, and I can reflect with greater clarity that these seemingly inconsequential acts of validating your child’s creativity, which could be so easily missed or dismissed, form something more powerful than you can imagine at the time. They preserve an inner creative core that continues to protect that person’s sense of agency into adulthood. I am so privileged that my son chose to tell me his own story, and I feel it’s so important that I show him his stories are worth listening to and sharing. What does it matter if you’re only 3? Story-telling is how we have always communicated with each other and nothing beats the feeling of holding your own book in your hand.

Catchphrase: Let’s write some happy endings…

Left wanting more?

  • One, as yet, unfulfilled ambition is to make my own DIY story-telling book in the style of Nick Sharratt’s Pirate Pete with the kids. You have slots in the page and can choose your plot twists by changing the objects. I would love to try this more visual approach to story-telling with reluctant readers and writers.
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