In her introduction to last week’s Newsletter, Sophie wrote about the wonder of words and language and encouraged us to watch Stephen Fry’s eloquent exposition on how language makes us human. We love language and reading at Highfield and Brookham and this week I want to celebrate another way we use language, the amazing and timeless power of telling stories in the traditional way, eye to eye, face to face, and heart to heart. Did you know that the coming week is National Storytelling Week? Set up twenty years ago by the then largely unknown Society of Storytellers, National Storytelling Week was their way of increasing awareness of the timeless art, practice and value of oral storytelling. I am sure we all grew up being told wonderful stories, from fairy tales and Greek and Roman myths, to stories about our own families. Storytelling is at the root of every art form: we think in story form; stories make sense of our world in narrative as we create our own stories, from something we have seen, something that has happened to us, through last night’s television viewing, theatre trip or evening out, to what family and folk stories we remember and retell. National Storytelling Week is always held during the first week of February as this coincides with Candlemas. One of the rituals for this old church festival was a blessing on the throat, a prime tool in the store of all storytellers of every belief and culture.
Telling stories is one of the most powerful means that we have to influence, teach, and inspire. Storytelling is extraordinarily effective for learning, it forges connections among people, and between people and ideas. Stories convey our culture, our history, and the values that unite people. When it comes to our countries, our communities, and our families, we understand intuitively that the stories we hold in common are an important part of what binds us. But good stories do more than create a sense of connection. They build familiarity and trust, and allow the listener to enter the story where they are, making them more open to learning. Good stories can contain multiple meanings so they are surprisingly economical in conveying complex ideas in graspable ways. Think of the parables of Jesus, for example.
Modern studies of how people learn suggest that in any group, roughly 40 percent will be predominantly visual learners who learn best from video, diagrams, or illustrations. Another 40 percent will be auditory, learning best through listening and discussions. The remaining 20 percent are kinesthetic learners, who learn best by doing, experiencing, or feeling. Storytelling has aspects that work for all three types. Visual learners appreciate the mental pictures storytelling evokes. Auditory learners focus on the words and the storyteller’s voice. Kinesthetic learners remember the emotional connections and feelings from the story.
Storytelling also helps with learning because stories are easy to remember. Psychologists have repeatedly found that learning which stems from a well-told story is remembered more accurately, and for far longer, than learning derived from facts and figures. Indeed, research suggest that facts are twenty times more likely to be remembered if they are told as part of a story. Great storytelling makes connections and develops engagement, it appeals to all sorts of learners. It inspires, it motivates, it delivers learning that sticks. Above all, whether adult or child, we love to tell or listen to stories. So, may there be a blessing upon your throats this coming National Story Telling Week and if you haven’t told your children a story for a while, make the time to do so. There can be few things more enchanting and you will be building memories and learning.