Anumita recounts her childhood story time. How it helped the children develop social skills and helped them become a well-rounded person. She also talks about her special need child and how stories had to be told to him. Read more in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
It is story time and grandma is reading a story of a faraway princess and her magic shoes. Little ones sit around her and are daydreaming with every word that grandma utters. Her voice modulates with the emotions of the characters. They change tone according to the mood and then her hands make gestures to create the perfect image. She pulls up a little one and dresses her as the princess. The chubby one is her trusted pony. The tall one becomes the king. Every little one is a character of her story.
This was the scene from our childhood. I grew up in a joint family. We had our sessions of fantasy, which we lived not only in words from our grandma, but also acted along her narration. It was real for us. It made us feel life, through every fairy tales. Some stories were her own and some of the famous fables and parables.
It did not matter to us if they were not logical. What was important to us, was that we were together and enjoying life. We learned our little lessons through our enactments. Often the princess of one story would become the evil queen of another. Stories are just facets of life and they change according to circumstances.
Today, after many years I miss my grandma and her easy way of teaching us the complicities of life. Her little enactments and her stories were our manuals for dealing with relationship, social pressure, and life in general.
With the advancement in technology and the form of entertainment, children are less exposed to such story time. Yes, in preschools and elementary schools there are sessions of circle time, where they have such story reading. Some libraries have story time for toddlers and school goers. But, that is not happening in homes. We have less time for us and our family to be able to enjoy these simple pleasures.
My child had issues with social questions, being in the spectrum of Asperger’s syndrome, he could not decipher the simple social interactions. He needed something called ‘social stories’. These were made up stories catering to the subject of social etiquette the child needed. Then the teachers would give names of characters, many of the people he knew. Then the story would be read and discussed with him. At times, the teachers would act it out with him. Teaching through stories is not a new phenomenon, nor is it confined to form of instructions for the special needs.
Story teaching came from ancient times. Our peers and sages were the best storytellers. They taught us all the ways of life through their magnificent stories. It was an oral tradition. From guru to shishya (disciple) the stories were passed on. Some were modified to suit the purpose or according to the place and tradition, often interpolated according to the sociopolitical conditions of that time.
Children are sponges for information. Other than the Internet or the television, we can give them knowledge through human interaction. This has a twofold benefit. First, the child learns through stories and enacting it. Secondly, they learn how to behave and conduct themselves amongst others while acting to be someone else. It is a way of teaching them how to think in other’s perspective. That would be a well-rounded from of knowledge acquirement.
As our younger children read, take a few minutes out of your busy schedule and read with them. Act some of the parts. Teach them life and learn something from them. I believe no one teaches without learning at the same time. It is a constant process of give-and-take. I am sure you will have a good time.
The bonus here is that you will relive bits and pieces of your childhood with them. Don’t miss this second chance of becoming a child again!
©Anumita Chatterjee Roy
Photos from the internet.
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