The power of sharing stories with your grandchildren

14 May 2018
May is National Share A Story Month, which is the perfect time to embrace storytelling with your grandchildren and encourage them to read.

Did you know that May marks National Share A Story Month in the UK? The event is all about celebrating the power of storytelling and reading, and how these can be educational, a brilliant form of escapism and a means of opening up children's imaginations all at the same time.

With so many forms of entertainment for children today involving screens, it's important to remind them of fun activities they can do that don't rely on technology occasionally too. Reading can present children with whole new worlds to explore, and a visit to the local library can be absolutely wonderful for introducing them to new stories - and it's a brilliant free afternoon out for you during the school holidays too!

Sitting down for some quiet time to read a story to your grandchildren can have many benefits, enhancing their literacy skills and teaching them new things about the world around them, while sharing stories from your younger years with them can be a beautiful bonding experience.

Reading and sharing stories together is a great activity for a rainy day, but the fact that you can do it absolutely anywhere without needing anything except a little imagination makes it a fabulous activity for any time.

Share stories to improve children's literacy

According to 2012 statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), 17 per cent of all five-year-olds in the UK do not have a basic understanding of literacy skills. In many cases, this will be because no one is encouraging them to read from a young age, meaning their vocabulary is going to be limited as a result.

This is something that has recently been highlighted as an issue by both primary and secondary school teachers in an Oxford University Press report. Six in ten teachers said they were seeing declining vocabulary levels among pupils, which they believe is due to too few reading for pleasure.

In fact, a 2015 report from the then-Department for Culture, Media and Sport found that 41 per cent of 11 to 15-year-olds never read for fun or write creatively outside of school.

Kate Nation, a professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, explained: "Regardless of the causes, low levels of vocabulary set limits on literacy, understanding, learning the curriculum and can create a downward spiral of poor language which begins to affect all aspects of life."

Grandparents, parents and other adults that children look up to therefore have a responsibility to encourage the younger generation to read as much as possible, buying them books as gifts, taking them to the library and making an effort to show them what an enjoyable activity it can be.

Reading could become one of their favourite pastimes, and something as simple as sharing storytime with them for a few minutes each day could really help to prevent them from falling behind at school, and in other areas of their life too.

Where to find story inspiration

Part of keeping stories fresh and exciting is telling new ones that children won't be familiar with. They will have all heard classic tales like Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood countless times before, and might think they're too cool and grown-up now for a story that begins with 'once upon a time' and ends 'and they all lived happily ever after'.

Drawing on personal stories from your own childhood is one tactic, while another would be to research fairy tales or traditional stories from other cultures. Whether it's Greek myths or classic fables, children will love learning about different beliefs and customs from around the globe - and they'll probably think you're the cleverest person in the world for knowing so much!

Putting on different voices for characters and using props such as finger puppets (which you could even make together as a craft activity) can help to bring these tales to life even more, enhancing children's love of stories even further.

Tell stories a chapter or short instalment at a time, using cliffhangers to keep little ones interested until your next session, and they'll soon come to look forward to storytime, and one day look back on these times fondly as lovely moments you shared together.

Challenge children to make up what they think would happen next in the story, or to tell you their own fictional tales too - they'll love it, and it'll do their imagination wonders.

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