I read with interest your speech on ‘The Importance of Storytelling’ and I thought you might appreciate some feedback. I have tried to adhere to the rule that feedback should be ‘specific, helpful and kind’.
I’m afraid it is quite long, partly because I’ve quoted sections of the speech so you can easily see what I’m referring to (they’re in bold, so you can skip over them if you like) but also because some of your ideas need some careful unpicking. I’ve not dealt with things strictly in the order that you did because you did wander about a bit and I thought it would be more effective to group some of the ideas together.
Hope it’s helpful!
Today, I want to talk about the importance of storytelling, of children being read to and told stories, not only in the years before they start school but throughout their education.
You seem to be conflating storytelling and being read to. There is a world of difference between the two. Storytelling at its most powerful is a performance which actively engages and involves the listener in a shared experience. Being read to is a much more solitary experience, where the listener is freed from the effort of decoding to travel in their own mind’s eye. This is not to say that being read to is not valuable or enjoyable, it’s just a different thing, like apples and cucumbers are different things.
You are right that storytelling is vital, though you seem to regard it only as a vehicle to develop children’s reading skills; it is so much more than that. Storytelling is central to the way we communicate, both in passing on information – you later give examples of stories that teachers might tell to illuminate historical and scientific concepts – but also in building and sustaining relationships of all kinds.
It is difficult to overstate the benefits of instilling a love of reading in a child. According to research by the OECD, reading for pleasure is more important than a family’s socio-economic status in determining a child’s success at school.
I wouldn’t disagree with you here, but I would point out that there is often a correlation between a family’s socio-economic status and a child’s opportunity to develop a love of reading, sometimes because the child doesn’t have access to high quality books, sometimes because parents have very little time to read to and with their child because they’re working very long hours.
Remarkably, the combined effect of reading books often, going to the library regularly and reading newspapers at 16 was 4 times greater than the advantage children gained from having a parent with a degree.
Again, good point, Nick, but there have to be libraries, and libraries which are accessible to parents with children (libraries are free, but buses are not) in order for children to go to them regularly. This is something you and your government can do something about.