Never underestimate the power of bedtime stories made up in the moment, with input from the kids. Some of children's literature's most popular inventions–A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, and many others–began as part of family bedtime rituals.
Listening to the story without the benefits of the illustrations requires the child to picture the characters and the events in their own mind,” said Rebecca Isbell, Ph.D., an early childhood education consultant and professor emerita at East Tennessee State University. “They are creating the story for themselves. They are listening to it, and as they do they’re turning on that movie in their head.”
These mental movies are powerful — in her research, Dr. Isbell has found children understood (and retained) more of a story they were told out loud than having the same story read to them. “I think that’s something that gets lost with reading,” she said. “You’re focused on the words and the phrases, not the deeper meaning of it.” When you tell a story, there’s no book to focus on, for you or your child, so you can use gestures and eye contact to add drama, suspense and intrigue.
Even though I've spent the past thirty years studying traditional storytelling, this magic of telling versus reading a tale was brought home to me again in June when I watched, via Zoom, the National Storytelling Network's annual conference. Bob and I spent nine glorious days and evenings bathed in the regenerative wisdom of storytellers from around the world.