Preparing for National Storytelling Week

National Storytelling Week is coming up soon! Starting Monday 30th January and finishing on February 5th February it’s a celebration of the power of sharing stories. Caroline Fielding, Librarian at Charlton Park Academy has written the blog this week all about the power of reading aloud and the tradition of storytelling.

Traditional storytelling

Adults and children alike enjoy hearing a story. Traditional tales that have been passed down orally, captured in images and finally writing, tell a story not just to entertain but often to make the listener appreciate and understand the world around them more. Story precedes print by generations and really, any form of communication is storytelling! Oral storytelling is a real skill. I have a friend who can bring a story to life, she just knows the stories so well and has the confidence to not hide behind notes. I will never tire of seeing her tell an Anansi tale to a group of students and watching their reactions. It takes lots of practice and isn’t for everyone.

Zog by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Reading aloud

I am very fond of reading aloud, less nerve wracking than storytelling as you don’t have to remember everything, but also takes a bit of practice to do well! So, in this post I’m going to give you my top tips for choosing a book, including some favourite titles, and how best to approach the telling…

Top Tips for reading aloud

First Tip

Most importantly, read the story yourself first, not necessarily out loud, but you need to be prepared for what’s coming on the turn of a page. Rhyming stories are great to read aloud, but you need to know where the rhymes are, sometimes you must stretch words out or pause. Julia Donaldson, author of The Gruffalo and many others, is a master at making a story scan while others can take a bit of practice to find the flow. Karl Newson is one of my favourite rhyming picture book authors.

The Same But Different Too by Karl Newson and Kate Hindley

Second Tip

Have a go at doing the voices! It doesn’t have to be a perfect accent for each character, just change your tone slightly when someone’s talking, e.g., a gruff Gruffalo voice and a high-pitched mouse voice. And, if it is supposed to be a funny story, be prepared to be a bit silly. You want your listeners to laugh but they won’t if you read the whole thing in a monotone, no matter how funny the story might be.

My very favourite books to read aloud are the ‘Oi’ series by Kes Gray and Jim Field – I do a very posh cat, a Del Boy frog, and a slightly dopey dog, and it is so much fun. Dramatic pauses are a great way to get your listener/s focussing in. If it supposed to be a scary story or a dramatic scene, change the speed you’re reading at or the volume of your voice to get them leaning in on the edge of their seat before SOMETHING HAPPENS…Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shireen is a brilliant picture book for this.

Oi Frog! by Kes Gray and Jim Field

Third Top Tip

It should go without saying, make sure all the listeners can see the pictures. I am practiced at reading upside down or from the side so that I can share the pictures while I read from the front of a group, but when reading at home…just sit next to one another!

Fourth Top Tip

I don’t think anyone is ever too old to enjoy a picture book: some are targeted at babies, others for older children, and some will have different impacts with different ages…never stop reading aloud!

Reading chapter books is a different kind of challenge – no (or few) pictures to support the listener’s imagination, so your voice does even more work – it is just as important to read ahead, to make sure the story is appropriate for your listener but also to give yourself an idea of the characters and what tones you should use.

Don’t rush but don’t be ponderous, read enthusiastically and dramatically as you would with a picture book. Stop sometimes to give your own reaction to what has just happened, and check that your listener is understanding what is going on, maybe ask a question (…can you believe she did that? Oh my goodness, what do you think is going to be in the box?). I’ve been reading the How to Train Your Dragon series with my 7 year old. She’s not ready to read it on her own, but it is a great way to develop vocabulary and experience epic stories!

How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell

Final Top Tip

Choose a range of books to read! Don’t only read Julia Donaldson (as great as her books are). There are picture books relating to anything you can possibly imagine: Books for Topics and Children’s books and reading tips | BookTrust are great sources of ideas. Read widely and diversely to show your child that stories belong to everyone.

There are some great ideas for encouraging your children to be storytellers here: A collection of activity booklets for children 3 – 11 as part of Storytelling Month | Words for Life.

The Literacy Trust also has some great resources and activities for National Storytelling Week.

Billy and the Beast by Nadia Shreen

Need support for struggling readers?

Take a look at our Thursday Thirty recording on An Introduction to ReadingWise. Reading Wise is used widely across primary, secondary, special schools and with individuals to support children and young people struggling with their reading.

> Watch the recording

The recording is suitable for teachers, SENCOs, school SEND teams, TAs, Speech and Language Therapists, and parents and carers supporting children and young people.

An introduction to ReadingWise