This week I'm telling stories in area child care centers as part of a pilot pre-kindergarten program. Today I told stories to a group of kids from Head Start who regularly walk to the Lawrence Arts Center. LAC has its own arts-based preschool, and these Head Start kids benefit from the expertise of the teachers and the art supplies.
It's interesting to watch children as they listen to stories. Sometimes I can practically see the neurons firing away. Today I played with parallels. In all, I told three stories and we sang one song. Two stories had a surprise monster-y jump. One song and one story had sleep as a theme. Two stories ended with "And it never, ever came back." After the second of these, one boy called out, "That's just like that other story." They were all noticing, even if they didn't realize it.
Story listening builds pre-reading skills. Kids learn sequencing and prediction when they listen to stories. They learn story structure. They notice meaningful details. They internalize the music and rhythm of language.They have a shared experience, something they can go back to when they're out on the playground together. They learn about appropriate responses. They learn about human behavior and emotions.
Best of all, though, they relax and have fun.