So why do I tell stories in a music class? After all, I’m sure you all read stories to your children at home. So why would I take the time designated for music to tell your child a story, such as McDonald’s Farm or Come to the Fair or Crystal’s Drum Story?
First, we must distinguish between reading to your child and telling a story. While it is certainly true that most parents read stories to their children, very few parents tell their children stories. Telling a story is particularly important because it is a completely aural experience for your child. When you are reading to your child, you are probably sitting very close to him/her, and s/he is following along with the book, looking at the pictures and words. Unfortunately, when confronted with 2 separate stimuli, in this case the book to look at and our voice to listen to, most children have to choose between the two, as they are unable to attend to both simultaneously. And in most cases, if there is something to look at and something to listen to, children will choose the visual input, since their visual sense is more easily accessed. So, one of the most important reasons to tell your child a story without the aid of props is to encourage good listening skills.
Secondly, by telling a story without showing your child accompanying pictures, I am asking your child to imagine. Encouraging your child to imagine what something looks like is nurturing your child’s imagination which is very important as s/he progresses from concrete to abstract thought. Asking your child to imagine what an animal or character in a story feels like helps your child to develop a sense of empathy.
Thirdly, when telling a story, rather than reading a pre-scripted tale, you can ask your child for his/her input, allowing your child to determine the ultimate direction of the story. By allowing your child to contribute his/her ideas, you are giving him/her ownership of the story, which leads to your child having greater interest in the story.
The fourth reason that I like to include stories is that they provide us with many opportunities for movement and vocal exploration. Very often, a child uses his/her singing voice when imitating what the bird sounds like or how the cat sounds. For some children it may be the first time, and I can affirm it by saying, “You are using your singing voice; good for you!” For others, it reinforces the difference between their singing and speaking voice. Regarding movement, even the roughest, toughest children are capable of moving expressively, but it is often easier for them when they imagine themselves as someone or something else, such as a robin hopping across the lawn in search of a worm, or a cat stretching after a long nap.
Finally, in today’s world, spoken language is not valued. Email and text messages have taken the place of phone calls and face-to-face communication. I-pods and MP3 players have taken the place of family sing-alongs on road trips. While this may lead to more effective communication and fewer tantrums in the car, there is a down-side to consider: the greatest source of energy for the brain is the sound of the live, spoken (or sung) voice.
We all want the best for our children, and often that means buying an expensive item – the fastest computer, the best quality musical instrument, the latest, most up-to-date reading program, etc. Isn’t it amazing to think that one of the most effective things we can do for our children is to feed their brain by engaging them in conversation and storytelling!
This post was written by Julie Cutcliff, our fabulous MusikGarten music teacher for both the toddler and primary communities. Julie is a graduate of the University of Georgia with a Bachelors and Masters in Music Education. She is a registered Suzuki cello teacher and MusikGarten teacher. She has taught for over 18 years in the classroom and private studio.
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