Books and stories are a perfect way to build children’s self confidence, not only in their literacy ability but learning about the world, and themselves. Stories introduces children to different worlds both real and imaginary. It may inspire children to explore these world further either in real life learning about a different culture or in the imagination creating their own worlds, characters and stories.
1. Diverse books
Stories introduce children to different people and characters. It is important that children have access to books which show people with similar lives to their own. Equally important is that children read books about people who have lives different to their own, in order to begin to develop empathy and understand the wonderful diversity of people, cultures and places in the world. This is why it is important that the books available reflect positive images of disabilities, different types of families, adoption, fostering, multicultural families, different faiths and beliefs.
2.Sharing a story
The act of sharing a book with a child is profound and precious. It is a special quality time and it says to the child you are important and loved and I am prepared to spend time with you. For babies and young children in particular it is bonding time but even with older children when they can read themselves it is deeply beneficial. Even at a very young age children benefit from being read to, they can see how to turn pages, words and pictures on the page and how to hold a book. Older children often enjoy sharing and reading stories to younger siblings. This helps bonding and gives the older child a sense of responsibility. The younger child may like to swap roles and read or tell the story with help of the pictures to their older brother or sister.
3. Join the library
For most children a library card is their first taste of being a citizen. The excitement and responsibility of owning a library card and choosing books to borrow helps build self esteem. Unlike buying books in a shop there should be less pressure to select the right book and instead a child can try out different authors and types of books knowing that if they don’t like one they can return it and borrow another. Library staff are experts at helping children pick books based on their interest but will not be prescriptive, instead finding books which match a children’s broad interests. It is important that children as far as possible are given a free rein to pick their own books regardless of perceived appropriate age. Too many children have been put of picture books under the impression that the books are too babyish. Parents and carers often fear that their children are reading below their level and push them away from books which are seen as too young or easy. In actually fact this can serve to put children off reading and most children if given time will select books appropriate to their ability and interest. Most children like challenges and quickly get bored of something out of their age and ability level. The library is also the place to try out something different to the reading schemes at school.
4. Escape into a book
Quiet reading on their own give children the self confidence to step around from the hustle of the playground and escape. It can be likened to meditation and helps children find a quiet place within themselves. Quiet reading is particularly important skill today in a world of constant technology, simply reading a book in silence teaches children they do not always have to be surrounded by sound. Reading also helps to build patience as much of the world consists of sound bites and short bits of information. Reading teaches about the important of absorbing information for a long period of time without sound or image.
Reading more than anything develops the imagination and of course the greater our imagination the more we are inspired to think further about the possibilities in life. A child who develops their own imagination can create their own stories and also may be able to imagine a different world to the one they live in. The gift of imagination creates a higher expectations of ourselves, our abilities and what we wish to experience in our lives.
The art of telling stories from memory is still quite rare but certainly experiencing a bit of revival. Teaching children tell stories themselves serves multiply self confidence purposes including testing memory and language skills, being listened to and also the opportunity to use the imagination to describe the story to the listener. It also helps built problem solving skills especially if part of the story is forgotten mid flow!
Children who are surrounded by reading and stories, benefits from theses 6 ways and much more..
Ruth Humphreys is a professional freelance children’s librarian, storyteller, writer and children’s books specialist. She runs Magic Carpet Storytelling, running regular sessions in Maidenhead and the surrounding area. Her specialities include books that reflect the wonderful diversity of people, cultures and places, particularly books featuring positive representations of disabilities, different types of families including LGBT, fostering, adoption, travellers. Books which address sensitive issues such as bereavement and loss. Books that help children’s spiritual upbringing including yoga, meditation and positive affirmations. She is also interested in the way play and positive intention can be used by children and adults to enrich their daily lives.