Storytelling: A Creative Approach to Enhancing Your Child’s Language Skills - Horizon Academy

Storytelling: A Creative Approach to Enhancing Your Child’s Language Skills

Nov 21, 2023

Storytelling: A Creative Approach to Enhancing Your Child’s Language Skills

As Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs), we recognize the power of storytelling in the vast universe of language development. Not only is storytelling a rich tradition passed down through generations, but it is also a critical educational tool that can expand your child's language skills in creative and engaging ways. Our work in the classroom with students at Horizon Academy this quarter has been focused on narrative language development, which includes the ability to understand and tell stories. 

But why is storytelling so important? Narratives are a fundamental way in which we communicate. They allow us to share our experiences, understand the sequence of events, and express our emotions and thoughts. For children, storytelling can help enhance their vocabulary, improve their understanding of grammar and sentence structure, and foster their ability to sequence events logically. It is a key component in developing literacy skills and overall communication competence. In particular, for children with dyslexia or language-based learning disabilities, engaging in narrative language development is not just beneficial; it's essential. These activities provide a foundation for understanding complex language structures and enhance the skills necessary for academic success.

So, how can you support narrative language development at home? Here are some creative and effective strategies to turn your home into a storytelling haven:

Encourage "Story Starters"

Story starters spark the imagination and encourage children to take their first steps into storytelling. Try beginning a story with an open-ended scenario and invite your child to take the reins. For example, "In a quiet forest, a mysterious door stands alone. One day, the door opens…" Let your child's imagination fill in the rest.

What could this look like?

You can create a "story jar" where you gather slips of paper with different story starters written on them. This could be a fun dinnertime activity where each family member pulls a story starter from the jar and adds a line to the story, building a family narrative together.

Be an Active Listener

Active listening is a cornerstone of effective communication. Show your child that their stories are valued by giving them your full attention. Make eye contact, nod, and react to their tale. Ask probing questions like, "What did the character feel when that happened?" or "What would you do if you were in the story?" This not only shows interest but challenges your child to think more deeply about their narrative.

What could this look like?

To make this a part of your daily routine, you could set aside time during a meal or before bed specifically for sharing stories. This tells your child that their voice is important and there's always time to listen to what they have to say.

Explore a Variety of Narratives

Exposing children to a wide range of narratives broadens their linguistic and cultural horizons. Read together stories from around the world, explore various genres, and discuss them. Discuss the differences in the tales, the characters, the settings, and what lessons they may teach us.

What could this look like?

You could create a story-themed game night where each person chooses a story and acts out a scene or summarizes the plot, while others guess the story. This not only reinforces the structure of narratives but also encourages the understanding of various cultural contexts and the unique language styles within them.

Encourage Written Stories

Encourage children to write their stories. Provide them with a special notebook where they can jot down their narratives. This can evolve from simple sentences to detailed descriptions as they grow.

What could this look like?

You could also start a family blog or a storyboard in your home where everyone can contribute and read each other's stories. For a more guided approach, propose a theme for each week. For instance, one week could be dedicated to science fiction, the next to fantasy, and so on. This gives your child an opportunity to research and learn about different genres while practicing writing.

Our approach at Horizon Academy is inclusive and recognizes the unique challenges faced by children with dyslexia and language-based learning disabilities. By emphasizing storytelling and narrative skills, we offer an intervention that is helpful for all, critical for some, and carries no risk of harm, ensuring that every child, especially those we serve, has the opportunity to thrive in their language development.

Remember, the art of storytelling is not just about speaking; it's about communication, imagination, and the shared experience between the storyteller and the audience. By making storytelling a part of your home life, you're not only enhancing your child's language skills but also creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Let's nurture the next generation of storytellers together!

Jo Myers, M.A. CF-SLP

Emily Hathhorn, M.A. CCC-SLP

Jo Myers and Emily Hathhorn are both Speech-Language Pathologists here at Horizon Academy where our mission is to empower students diagnosed with dyslexia and other language-based learning disabilities to become effective learners and confident self-advocates.