How Storytelling Can Be Good For Children’s Learning & Mental Health

National Storytelling Week, which runs from 26 January to 2 February 2019, aims to show how this age-old tradition is as relevant now as ever, and can even benefit children’s learning and mental health

Words: Ellie Fells
Lead image: Mystic Art Design

For many of us, the words ‘once upon a time’ will take us back to our infant school days. However, the ancient art of story-telling is by no means something that should be rooted in childhood, and sharing tales with one another can have hugely positive impacts on both the young and old.

The Society for Storytelling works to keep this tradition alive. Founded as a charity in 1993, the Society now consists of 220 professional story tellers. ‘The idea was that the Society would help to promote storytelling across the country,’ their chair, Paul Jackson, explains.

Their flagship event is an annual National Storytelling Week, which this year is taking place between 26 January and 2 February. The week will see organisations from across the country come together to practice this art form, with hundreds of events taking place everywhere from community centres through to Westminster Abbey.

‘Whenever I go into schools and tell children a story, I ask how it makes them feel. They always say something like, “It’s relaxing”’

Schools across the country are being encouraged to take part in the week, with the hope that the sharing of stories will be beneficial to both a child’s learning, and to their mental health. ‘Whenever I go into schools and tell children a story, I ask how it makes them feel. They always say something like, “It’s relaxing”,’ Paul reflects.

Telling stories to each other is a way of getting children to take a step away from their computer screens and mobile phones, encouraging communication and the use of their imagination. ‘We want children to create their own stories all week,’ Paul adds, with the Society urging teachers to give their students the freedom to tell whatever narratives they like.

Children find stories and storytelling relaxing (photo: StockSnap)

Children find stories and storytelling relaxing (photo: StockSnap)

What’s more, National Storytelling Week certainly isn’t restricted to the younger generation. ‘Story tellers will go out into small community groups, nursing homes, sheltered housing, to people who don’t have housing at all,’ Paul says.

Coming together to share stories is a great way of reducing loneliness, creating a feeling of belonging. ‘It’s not just the phrase “everyone has a story to tell”, but rather that every story is important to that particular person,’ Paul explains.

He adds that it is especially beneficial for those suffering from dementia, with the hope that telling stories will help in linking together fond, fragmented memories.

‘During the time in that story people can be taken out of their troubles,’ he says. Anyone can get involved with National Storytelling Week, and information packs for holding your own event are available to download on the Society for Storytelling’s website. There’s no time like the present.