Celebrate National Storytelling Week in Kent

National Storytelling Week 2020

National Storytelling Week 2020 - Credit: Archant

To celebrate National Storytelling Week on 1-8 February, Kent Life talks to inspirational locals on the importance of sharing a tale

Every year thousands of schools, teachers, parents and storytellers become involved in National Storytelling Week's annual celebration of storytelling. Marking its 22nd year, it is run by the Society for Storytelling, which aims to increase public awareness of the 'art, practice and value of oral storytelling'.

The Society, founded to support and promote storytelling in England and Wales, aims to encourage the whole community to take part in storytelling and helps places such as schools, art centres, libraries, and museums.

Headmaster Gavin Franklin at Wellesley House School in Broadstairs says his school will be celebrating the event by getting staff and pupils to share extracts from their favourite books.

He adds: "We will work collaboratively with our music, drama and art departments throughout the week to promote the notion of storytelling."

National Awareness Days like these are important for children's learning. Storytelling has earned its place as arguably the most important tradition humans naturally possess. The most important reason for this being that every story contains a lesson to instruct the audience.

An inspirational storyteller and class leader from Reading Fairy (Kent), Sita Turner aims to engage young children with sensory props, puppets, instruments, fun educational games and the best picture books.

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"My most important role is to encourage the children to develop a love of reading and stories for life," she says.

"So many children are not read to and many will not open a book until they start school. As a storyteller, I bring all of the excitement and action of a story to life. I love to get the children involved in the stories so we will get them up on their feet and actively participating with actions, repetitive words and phrases and sensory props."

Sita, who was previously a secondary school English teacher, believes there are huge benefits in bringing your children to classes.

"For the most part the children don't even know that they're learning, as every activity is designed to promote fun and entertainment," she says.

There is a clear link between attainment in literacy and access to literature and we ensure that children are not only familiar from a very young age with how books work, but that they see them as something magical, which will stay with them forever."

As part of Reading Fairy, her classes are located at Macknade Fine Foods in Faversham and the programme is split into four separate classes/stages: Reading Recruits (three to five-year-olds), Story Stars (two to three), Toddler Tales (18 months-two years) and Book Babies (12-18 months).

Within each class are phonics-based activities, storytelling, books and songs. Sita believes the children will eventually learn how to recognise sounds and letters. "This helps them recognise their name on a peg when they start pre-school, for example.

"Many will already be able to sound out words when they leave us, as well as being able to recite traditional nursery rhymes, tell stories from memory and talk about their favourite books."

Reading Fairy has been running since 2014 and first launched in Kent, with the aim of giving every child the best start for learning to read and loving books.

Co-founder Emily Guille-Marret explains how it all began: "I was on maternity leave with my second son. As an educational publisher of print and digital books to help children learn to read for organisations such as Oxford University Press, Pearson and Ladybird, I found that friends would ask me for advice and practical tips to support their child's reading at home.

"What started off as a light-hearted chat with friends over coffee turned into a passion for wanting to pass on my expertise to help parents and carers give their baby, toddler or pre-school child the best start for learning to read. Many grandparents quickly joined in with keen interest too."

Emily adds: "Aside from the four Reading Fairy stages, children's reading expert Charlotte Raby and I also created five friendly characters for children to get to know on their reading journey. Each represents a key element in laying down solid foundations for learning to read and developing a lifelong love of reading."

Headmaster Gavin Franklin adds: "Ideally, every child should be reading for at least half an hour a day; however, we are fighting an ongoing battle with technology.

"Reading increases vocabulary, builds the imaginative potential and improves writing. Reading is an essential component of English and also helps to build social and emotional intelligence."

According to 50 Fantastic Ideas for Storytelling by Judit Horvath: "Scientists have found that children who have fiction read to them regularly find it easier to understand other people.

"They show more empathy and have the ability to understand that other people have different thoughts and feelings to us, which is essential for understanding and predicting other people's thoughts and behaviour."

Sita agrees: "Introducing books from birth gives children access to a huge vocabulary, which is vital for speech and language development. Many children's books are written in rhyme which, by its nature, helps children remember words and phrases more quickly.

"Starting off with board books and pages with bright colours and patterns promotes baby brain development. Board books also help develop fine motor skills as babies and toddlers learn how to manipulate and turn pages."

Local children's author Nick Carter agrees. "Whether it is a picture book or any kind of story, it makes children learn all different kinds of things. They have incredible imaginations and it is about bringing that to life. Whether it's a kid wanting to be a knight in armour or a princess, everybody has a story to tell."

Nick, who has been writing children's books for more than 10 years, is currently on his fourth. He says: "When you create a story like my book Chestle Crumb and the Animals of Broadwater Warren, which is set on the RSPB site, it's a chance for children to bring their imagination to life when they visit."

So, do the stories we hear as children shape our view of the world? "We live in a fast-paced, digital world and reading is one of the only things that encourages us to slow down and escape for a while. If I have had a busy day, I will always make time to read to my children and that sense of routine and familiarity is important to us all," says Sita.

"Reading with your children encourages them to ask questions, be curious and associate reading with love, which will forge that love of reading for life."

Get in touch

If you'd like to join Reading Fairy as a class leader, contact Sita, canterbury@readingfairy.com. If you're a parent or local to Faversham and want to try classes at Macknade, visit readingfairy.com/canterbury

Storytelling events

1 February, 10.30am, Maidstone Library (Kent History and Library Centre)

1 February, 3pm, Canterbury Library

3 February, 2.15pm at Yalding Library

4 February, 2pm at Coxheath Library

4 February, 2pm at Allington Library

4 February, 2.15pm at Bearsted Library

5 February, 2.15pm at Staplehurst Library

6 February, 2.15pm at Shepway Library

7 February, 10am at Marden Library

7 February, 11am at Herne Bay Library

7 February, 2.30pm at Whitstable Library

8 February, 3pm at Canterbury Library

Competition time

Kent Life has teamed up with Harper Collins and is offering your school the chance to win 30 books from the Collins Big Cat Phonics for Letters and Sounds series, which is part of a whole-school reading programme, Collins Big Cat.

From decoding words to reading fluently for pleasure, ensure a secure start to every child's reading journey in Reception and Year 1 with fully decodable fiction and non-fiction books expertly aligned to Letters and Sounds.

To be in with a chance of winning this fantastic prize, just answer these questions:

1. Who is the Children's Laureate for 2019-2021?

2. In 30 words, why do you think reading is important?

Email your answer, marked 'Kent Life Reading competition' to: sarah.sturt@archant.co.uk or post to: Kent Life, c/o 28 Teville Road, Worthing, West Sussex BN11 1UG.

Closing date for entries: 28 February 2020

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