Last week the UK education secretary Damian Hinds stated that were not enough children arriving into UK schools with ability to speak or read at the required level. He described this as a ‘scandal’ and there is a gap between the haves and have-not from the very beginning and this gap is very difficult to bridge.
This undoubtedly opens a massive debate into government funding, over testing and assessing in schools and the issue of the social mobility gap. Putting that to one side for now, should we ask ourselves if is there anything else we can do as parents to develop our children’s literacy skills in their formative years, ensure they’re as ready as possible for that big jump to school?
I’m fully aware that the parents we come across through our business read regularly to their children and instil a love for a good story. We all have our favourite childhood book. I loved Danny Champion of the World by Roald Dahl; the story of Danny (our downtrodden hero) ingeniously overcoming the injustices of Mr Victor Hazel (the villain) with the help of his dad. These types of memories are invaluable and as a parent we want more than anything to past on the gift of a great story to our little ones. However, Mr Hind seems to state that there is more that we should be doing. Skills such as speaking, listening, imagination, creation as well as reading and writing are, according to him, the things that are lacking. So, what else can we do?
One simple idea is the use of a story box. We used these with our children and without doubt it increased interaction, imagination and speaking and listening at story time. What is a story box I hear you say? Well, they are easy to make or buy. In the simplest of terms, a story box is nothing more than a selection of items that you can tell a story with. Whilst the story takes place your child can interact with the story, you can discuss the story and they can add their own ideas in as the story is not fixed.
As parents we had a selection of these story boxes ready prepared, tucked away for when the occasion arose to use our imaginations. We had several homemade story boxes as well as ones we bought from suppliers. However, there is a little trick with these story boxes; it’s best to have a story in mind before you start interacting with one. There were a couple of occasions when I blindly opened a story box without a story prepared and the results were, well let’s say, less than positive. After those first few occasions I made sure I was ready. But, in a funny way, this became enjoyable to as would make up stories for my story boxes on the bus on the way to work.
Without doubt story boxes helped our children to develop their literacy skills and prepare them for school. They became more confident speakers and were able to articulate their ideas in a fluent manner as well as being able to bring to life imaginative scenarios continuing the stories after my story had finished. I am not in any way saying that these story boxes replaced the joy of a good book, they just every now and again enhanced our time story adventure time together.
For some story box ideas check them out here, http://relovedboutique.co.uk/timeless-traditional-toys/story-telling-toys/