Celebrating National Storytelling Week: The Importance of Storytelling

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/ Acorn Education Trust
January 29th 2022

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January 29th to February 5th 2022 is National Storytelling Week. Sarah Ashton, Trust Head of Literacy, explains why stories are so important.

Stories are powerful, magical things. They have existed for as long as we have: told around fires, as bedtime stories, passed orally and through songs in the days before print; used to explain things we couldn’t understand, or to teach us morals. They have entertained us, scared us, united us, informed us of the world and our place in it. They show us people and situations which are mirrors to our experiences, or challenge us to step outside our own reality and inhabit the world of others – developing our empathy and kindness in the process.

It’s not just the content of stories which is so important. The language used to tell a story is just as powerful. We learn the language of stories from an early age: the use of repeated triplets in fairy stories – three wishes, three little pigs, three attempts at a quest, for example.  We come to know and remember openings and endings; ‘and they lived happily ever after…’ such a satisfying resolution to a story, where problems are overcome and balance is restored. The exposure to the words, the rhymes and rhythms, patterns of language and all the different ways it can be used to tell stories is a crucial part of language development for young children. That’s why the new DFE Reading Framework promotes story-time as a key aspect of helping children learn how to read and enjoy stories.

In Acorn schools, we know the importance of reading as the key for pupils to access the curriculum. But we want our pupils to leave us as ‘readers for life’ – as young adults who enjoy the act of reading and understand the benefits, as well as being competent in ‘reading to learn’. In the primary schools, we aim for pupils to receive a dedicated story-time every day where they enjoy a story read by the teacher – all the way up to year six – as well as the rich reading diet they get in Literacy. In the secondary schools, tutor time weekly reading also allows pupils to benefit from being read to, or to join in with sharing a story as part of a whole school reading community.

We know all too well that the world we live in is a very different one from the world many of us grew up in. The choices for entertainment for young people these days is overwhelming. In a world of screens, multiple viewing platforms and everything on demand, it’s understandable how, to many of our pupils, reading a book is a poor replacement for a screen. That is why it is imperative that story-telling continues to be prioritized within schools. As much as possible, starting as young as possible, we need to ‘normalise’ reading, build on support from parents, and ensure that all our pupils have access to high quality texts, and the chance to enjoy stories. We are preparing children for the world in their time – but we want to send them into it with a deep love of stories that is part of their human heritage.