- Vallish Herur
Observing young children learn is a fascinating and a transformative experience, specially to parents. Insatiable curiosity, keenness to explore and experience everything they come across, coupled with an uncluttered mind, creates a fertile ground for unfettered learning. Learning happens rapidly, yet so naturally and intuitively also lays the foundation for the person one becomes.
Providing the right experiences is the role parents and adults have to play. Trying to create artificial structures for learning is likely to impede learning and hence an environment where the child feels secure and comfortable is most essential. Learning needs to be facilitated by providing the right experiences to the child. New situations, experiences and information helps the child make those associations in the mind.
Narrating stories to a child is one of the must-do activities parents must invest themselves into. With material around, the child is in a playground with all the five senses involved. When the child is listening to a story being narrated, its own mind becomes its playground. Every sentence or situation narrated orally creates newer imagery in its mind. Feelings such as joy, warmth, wonder, anger all create associations in the mind. Characters in the story get a form and face, the situations bring to life the trees, plants, the sky and everything around. The imagery getting created in the child’s mind is the magic that gets weaved with no external visual input. This is the imagery that is original to the child, which is not apparent to others, and the one that stays with it for forever.
We can help the child create richer imagery in the child by vocalizing with the right intonations and pauses, showering attention on the details of the characters and the settings, expressing all the feelings facially and in voice. From stories that are entirely based on fantasies to real-life stories, a wide spectrum of situations, emotions, thoughts and feelings can be brought to life. Storytelling helps the narrator temporarily regain the innocence and be a child. As parents, it helps us to strengthen the bond with the child and it’s feelings.
Storytelling helps the child acquire language capabilities very fast. From increasing familiarity with the language, storytelling strengthens vocabulary and intuitively comprehend and internalize semantics. In fact, I strongly advocate that the first few years of language learning at schools should be centered around storytelling and reading out stories.
The value system our children acquire and connect to the cultural roots get significantly be shaped by stories. Our country, with a rich oral tradition, has been dependent on stories for educating children. The culture that gave the Hitopadesha, Panchatantra etc relied on stories to teach value system and the ways of life. We only need to dive into the abundantly available historical stories to kindle the right and wholesome thoughts.
With an explosion in stories presented in the form of animations and videos, we tend to resort to as an alternate and allow children to watch videos. As a story is narrated to a child orally, the child’s mind starts becoming the creator of imagery, whereas watching a story presented in the visual form will make the child’s mind become a consumer. An addictive indulgence that they are, these videos slowly and surely take away the ability of the child’s mind to create and increases its dependence on external visual stimuli. It is imperative that parents invest time and effort to become storytellers to their children. Every bit of effort is undoubtedly priceless - the process of storytelling in itself is rewarding while the benefit for the child is immense. The ability of imagination will be valued much more than many technical capabilities that the child is likely to acquire later through formal education.
It is an enviable opportunity every parent gets to bond with their child through storytelling and witness their child’s rich imagination take wings and soar effortlessly in the horizon of infinite possibilities.