When did you last share a story? Was it this morning, when you told a neighbour about what happened yesterday in the check-out queue at the supermarket? Was it yesterday, when your daughter brought home a history project about the first democratic election in South Africa and asked you what you did on that day? Was it last weekend, when you and your friends spent the afternoon talking about your memories of primary school? Was it yesterday evening, when you read to your son at bedtime?
Yes, we share stories in lots of different ways all the time. In fact, sharing stories is as natural to human beings as eating and sleeping.
It doesn’t matter how old we are, we all use stories to explore our lives – past and present – and our possible futures. Other stories allow us to learn about the lives of our family and friends. Telling and reading stories provides a safe space to experience and make sense of the ups and downs of life.
Then there are those stories that transport us into the lives of people we’ve never known, who come from long ago and places far away. And there are those stories that carry us away to imaginary worlds where real-life fades and fantasy takes over. We might all enjoy different stories but we all share and explore them for the same reason: they are just so satisfying!
So, sharing stories with your children is fun and powerful! And did you know that it also has lots of other benefits too? Here are some of them:
1. Stories help your children develop their imagination and creativity.
2. Stories help your children to develop their language and thinking, especially when they hear or read them in their home languages.
3. Stories provide examples to your children of how people meet the challenges that face them.
4. It’s never too early to start – 75% of what children will learn in their lifetime is learnt by the age of two! So, whether your baby is chewing on a board book or your toddler wants you to tell the same story over and over again, your children are gaining essential knowledge about language and stories that will also benefit them later as they learn to read.
5. Even 15 minutes of reading with your children each day can expose them to 1 million written words in a year.
6. Being told stories and being read to at home are the things most likely to help make your children successful learners at school.
7. Children who have enjoyable storytelling and reading experiences at home are more likely to be motivated to read.
8. Reading aloud with children is known to be the single most important activity for building the knowledge and skills they will eventually require for learning to read.
9. Books contain many words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently in spoken language.
10. The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.
11. Children who know adults who read for pleasure take it for granted that reading is a valuable and worthwhile activity.
12. School children who are told stories are the first to form abstract concepts across the curriculum. Being told stories boosts language and, by feeding the child’s imagination, develops abstract thought.
13. Children who read a lot as opposed to watching television, develop longer attention spans.
14. When reading feels good to children, they become readers. We all repeat things that are pleasurable.
15. Children are more likely to continue to be readers in homes where books and reading are valued.
Download your "15 important benefits of stories" handout in English, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho and Afrikaans.