Mum, will you read me a story?

story-time

Parents and the art of storytelling.

It could be the title of a famous children’s handbook written by a famous psychologist.

But no, it is actually the opening of today’s article, one in which we will talk about how lovely and important it is to tell stories to our children.

It’s something as old as the world itself: mum or dad who, sat beside their child’s bed, read them a story to help them fall asleep.

A really adorable scene, almost idyllic, which we can actually witness when and if our children behave ‘by the book’ and so, in order: they don’t have a tantrum, they put pj’s on straight away, they brush their teeth and they get into bed out of their own free will.

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes…or so goes the old song about fairy-tales.

Ok, jokes aside, reading bedtime stories aloud to our children is a moment that is almost magical for them, and a lot of this magic resides in the way we adults tell the story.

While there isn’t a right age to start reading them stories, it is true that normally we whisper lullabies to new-borns and around 2-3 years of age we start with sing-songs.

Fairy tales are definitely something a little more complex and certainly need a higher concentration ability by those listening to them.

There are no strict rules, in any case: what is common to all these three options is that each of them represents a moment of great intimacy between parents and their children, a slice of time exclusively dedicated to our little ones. And we all know how much they love feeling that they matter, how much they need it and how beneficial it is for them to feel the attentive presence of mum and dad.

Beside the loveliness of this moment, reading bedtime stories to children is also useful for a number of reasons.

First of all it represents a considerable help not just because it introduces our little ones to the world of books, but also because it aids them in one of the hardest tasks: learning to read.

Children, even when small, “absorb” a lot when they hear us tell a story: the intonation of our voice, the way we pronounce words, doesn’t just calm and reassure our kids, it also helps them learn to read more easily.  

When we tell a story, we also help them develop their emotional and relational abilities, because they see themselves in the characters of the story and in their adventures.

It is like the story opens up a door onto another world, more or less fantastic, all corners of which our children can explore.

Often we hear it said that books are ‘food for our minds’. Well, you can say the same about fairy tales, as they stimulate imagination and creativity in children…and that can only be a good thing!

You don’t have to worry about them understanding the difference between reality and fiction: this will come in time by itself, as they continue to grow and make new experiences.

bambini-racconto

Often, telling a story can also be a way to exorcise our kids’ fears.  Many fairy tales, such as the very famous ones by the Grimm brothers – Hansel and Gretchen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella – and those by Andersen – such as The Little Mermaid and The Ugly Duckling, we find some characters that can create some fear in our little ones.

The ogre, the wolf, the witch presented in this way are not exactly reassuring, but if we can describe in a funny way they can become an effective tool to ease our kids’ fears.

And the moral of the story? In fables it isn’t always made clear, and sometimes fairy tales might even not have a happy ending.

This distinction is important and we want to remind you of the difference. Without going into too much detail, fables are those stories that begin with the classic ‘Once upon a time’ and feature a magical element that guarantees a happy ending. Good and evil, the goodies and the baddies are clearly identified.

Fairy tales instead are brief tales which are more realistic and true to life, without magical elements. They are stories that always have a moral, which is often communicated via a proverb. Do “The Fox and The Grapes ”, “The ant and the grasshopper”, “The boy who cried wolf” tell you anything? For those of you who don’t remember this, these, like many others are stories by Aesop,  an author from ancient Greece.

This quick lesson was simply to introduce a brief reflection about the moral of a story, the teaching that often hides behind a story we tell our kids.

Whether there is indeed a moral of the story or not, don’t take it for granted that they will immediately understand it (either because they are still too small, or because the story is quite difficult to interpret).

In any case, telling a bedtime story remains a special moment for our little ones, who remain fascinated and spellbound by the happenings and adventures of the different characters. It can be fun for us too, don’t you think?

Acting out the story and its characters, trying to communicate all the aspects of their personality, “doing the voices” and changing our intonation.

It is a past time that is good for us too, taking us away from the daily grind and, why not, also from smartphones, tablets, the TV and all those devices that we use way too often.

It’s so nice to instead rediscover such an ancient and pleasant way of entertaining our kids, and to share this special time with them. 

Vintage is so fashionable lately, why not adopt it here too? 🙂

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