Danyah Miller is a storyteller, writer, storytelling trainer and theatre producer. Her work as a solo performer and storyteller has taken her to schools, libraries and businesses around the UK and beyond. Bedtime stories have long been a part of a child’s night time routine, but as our days become increasingly busier, we’re hearing how this important part of the evening often slips. Here we ask Danyah, the expert, for her take on the importance of storytelling, and how you can ensure it’s an activity everyone loves.
Bedtime Reading Is More Important Than You Think
Hi – My name is Danyah Miller, I’m a storyteller, writer, storytelling trainer and theatre producer (www.wizardpresents.co.uk). I work, nationally and internationally, as a solo performer and as a storyteller in schools, libraries and children’s centres, as a trainer I work in businesses, libraries, schools and universities. For over ten years I was a course leader at the International School of Storytelling.
My vision is to see that storytelling is taking place in every home and school setting, for families to share with one another. I am particularly passionate about oral storytelling which I believe underpins, supports and comes before both reading and writing.
So why is storytelling so important? I hear you ask….
Well, I believe that sharing stories is an essential part of what makes us human, our lives are stories. We tell stories everyday, as we interact with our families, friends, teachers, and colleagues.
Einstein reportedly said “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Building Literacy Skills
Storytelling is a key component in developing and improving literacy skills as well as aiding in academic learning across the curriculum – I have witnessed stories motivating children to connect deeply with their learning in all subjects. Scientific studies confirm that children who are exposed to storytelling, both as listeners and as tellers, have better literacy skills including fluency, vocabulary, writing and recall. In fact recent studies from Australian National University demonstrated that growing up in a household filled with books can lead to proficiency in literacy, numeracy, and information communication technology, even if you don’t go on to university.
I believe that having access to stories, on a regular basis, can reach much further than this, for example improving imagination, self- awareness, visual imagery and cultural knowledge. Stories can give us a moral compass and teach us to value ourselves, respect others and care for the world.
Tell me the facts and I’ll learn
Tell me the truth and I’ll believe
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever
Native American Proverb
Exercise Your Imagination
Whilst I am absolutely a lover of books, I also believe that sharing a story with your children, heart to heart, without a book between you, adds a magical dimension to this voyage of discovery.
I would urge you to try this for yourself, maybe at bedtime, snuggle up in their bedroom, put the book down and begin to tell a story, whether it be a favourite story that you remember from your childhood (it doesn’t matter if you don’t remember it perfectly), a story of your childhood (children particularly love these), your child’s favourite story or a spontaneous one (often children join in joyfully with these). Don’t worry about the mistakes, the blunders, the loss of memory….. they add to the experience. Remember Leonard Cohen’s lyrics ‘There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’. What is most important is your intention and the love captured in that moment between you and your child.
I always think of imagination as a muscle, which needs regular exercise, just as our legs and arms do. So the more you tell stories in this way, the better you will get at it and the more you will be helping strengthen your child’s imagination too. In a world of passive media, stories and storytelling activities play an important role in strengthening this muscle of imagination.
The Institute for the Future (IFTF) and a panel of 20 tech, business and academic experts from around the world estimated recently that 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 haven’t even been invented yet. What we know is that the children who have strong, healthy imaginations are likely to navigate this new world most successfully.
Stories feed us on a deep level so that we can meet the world renewed and with new vitality, inspiring us to achieve more than we believed was possible.
I would love to hear your experiences of either sharing oral storytelling with your family, or of times when you enjoyed being told stories as a child. Please pop your tales in the comments below….photos too please!
Next time I will talk more about rhythm and repetition in stories and why these two elements are key in supporting our children as they grow….
If you would like to keep up to date with Danyah’s events and workshops, you can find out more on her website, here. Or why not follow Danyah’s social media channels below.