What child doesn't remember a magical story told to them by a parent or loved one? What adult isn't captivated by an evocative piece on the radio, or a coworker's rendition of their weekend adventure? Storytelling is one of humans' most basic and effective forms of communication. In fact, researchers at the Yale Child Study center are even finding that storytelling--especially between children and caregivers--is a key component of our neurological development, and a skill that will ultimately help create a well-adjusted and resilient youth.
Reading aloud is one of the key ways we bring the storytelling tradition to our modern world. In my travels for LitWorld, my international literacy nonprofit, I have watched the faces of countless children whose lives have been challenged by experiences and responsibilities beyond their years, find understanding and possibility as we share personal stories and books together.
In honor of that moment of transformation through story, we established March 3, 2010 as our first World Read Aloud Day- a day to celebrate the power of story, and its potential to change lives. Participants from more than 15 countries and from all different settings--schools, hospitals, libraries, businesses, universities--are are engaging to read together on March 3, confirming one of my deepest held beliefs: words change worlds.
Story connects us all. Children, adults, all of us everywhere can use the magic of story to find aspects of ourselves in others, and of others in ourselves. Story reminds us that connectedness to the world does not always mean some have more and some have less, but that we all have stories and that is what brings us together.
Here are a few children's books that really help illustrate this point.
Reading For You Are a Kenyan Child by Kelly Cunnane is a great way to talk with your child about how children all over the world live different lives but share similar thoughts and feelings. This story takes us through a day of a Kenyan boy, as he wakes up and explores his world. Children from any place will see how, like them, this boy has chores and responsibilities to take care of but can be easily distracted by interesting places to explore and the fun games his friends are playing. This story is a great way to help your child begin to think about his or her place in a global community.
In Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, Miss Rumphius promises her grandfather she will do three things: go to faraway places, live beside the sea, and make the world a more beautiful place. She has accomplished her first two goals but isn't sure how she will be able to make the world more beautiful. When she gets sick one winter, she is inspired with a simple and creative plan. This story shows how we can all make the world a better place in our own special way.
Vera B. Williams' A Chair for My Mother tells the story of a girl whose family lost all their belongings in a fire. Through the kindness and generosity of her community, the girl's new home is filled with furniture that families, friends, and neighbors willingly give. Inspired and encouraged by her community's help, the girl saves extra coins in a jar for a whole year to add a comfy chair to their new assortment of furniture, especially for her mother. This touching tale is the perfect way to begin a conversation about helping others in need.
Amber on the Mountain by Tony Johnston shares the story of a young girl named Amber, living on an isolated mountain. One day a man comes with his daughter, Anna, to build a road through the mountain and connect the scattered homes. Anna learns that Amber longs for both company and to learn to read. While Anna is on the mountain, she dedicates herself to teaching her friend this important skill. When Anna must leave with her father, Amber perseveres and learns to write as well, to keep in touch with her new friend. This story demonstrates in simple prose the incredible impact one person can have on another by opening his or her heart and sharing knowledge.
Visit litworld.org to learn more about or participate in World Read Aloud Day.