Children’s Stories

Children have incredible words, given the opportunity to tell their story.

Castle Story IMG_0420

As I took down a hallway art display I read (yet again) the story that children had created about living in a castle.  What would they do and who would they want to be?  Open ended questions for children fuel the fire in the brain.  Actually, opened ended questions give children freedom to say how they really feel and what they really think.  There are two important things to know: children need to be empowered; they need a chance to speak up without judgement.  Children need to be inspired; they need a shot at creativity.  We’re talking two things, the mind and the heart.  If I can fuel both, then I have done the best for children.

The best way to inspire and empower children is through language and literacy.  Hands down I know this to be true because thirty years haven proven it so.  Read a story aloud. Don’t be afraid that the words or storyline might be difficult.  That’s a golden opportunity to stop and learn.

When I was in high school we read Moby Dick and Beowulf.  I hated the books and could never feel a part of any discussion.  I was on the sideline.  Never did I feel that I had anything to contribute.  My empowerment and inspiration were zero.

What if my teacher had put down the book and just talked about what happened?  I have thought about that quite a lot.  It would have made a difference.  It might have given a shy girl a little chance at speaking up, or an opportunity to really think.

What if someone had read to me books like Charlotte’s Web when I was young?  I would have had the words to say how I felt.  I might have had a better chance at reading Moby Dick.  I think about this all the time.

When I read stories to children, stopping and talking and asking questions is as important as reading the story.  The next step is giving children an opportunity to tell their version, because it builds upon what they know and want to know.  That can be writing a group story or even planning a play performance by the children.

I love the story my class wrote.  When they get to high school, maybe they will be able to read and discuss Moby Dick. I’m giving them a good start.


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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3 Responses to Children’s Stories

  1. Lisa Besse says:

    Do you believe you have focused so much on reading to children because we were not really read to as we were growing up? I know reading was my escape during middle and high school.

  2. reocochran says:

    Thank goodness, my elementary teachers were open and challenging! This set me up in the 70’s for really working on integrating the “basics” with opportunities to speak out.
    * I feel bad about your high school teachers.
    Did you mention this to other teachers or ypur parents?
    My Mom was a high school English, Spanish and World Lit. teacher who incorporated poetry, music and art murals to help children/ teens engage in integrated learning. I raised my hand in H.S. and voiced my opinions and thoughts in a Cleveland suburb.
    I looked across the state of Ohio and since I was a single mom, I chose a university town, Delaware, Ohio to raise my kids. My 3 children had teachers who asked lots of questions and listened. The only thing I had to fill in the gaps was with the “basics” (for example) of phonics, long process of multiplication and creek walking to learn how science can be found close to home. 🙂
    I am excited that you chose to teach in a more open way than your own educational experiences, Jennie! Way to go! 🙂

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Robin, you were light years ahead of me in high school, and lucky to have the Mother you had. She ‘got it’ and therefore you were able to do far more than just feel overwhelmed and distanced like me. I think it is interesting that I have somehow become a teacher who does all the important things, and those I never got, especially literacy and reading.

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