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Encouraging children to read through storytelling
The Thunderbird Literacy Learning Program is hoping to capture the imagination of children through Aboriginal storytelling.
Every Thursday until the end of June, Mandy Higgins, parent educator and cultural liaison, turns into storyteller extraordinaire, encouraging children to read by providing interesting topics that relate to their culture.
“Our oral culture has made it difficult to work with words. But it is important for kids to excel in school because we have to learn to live in both worlds,” said Higgins.
Reading skills are important for excelling in all subjects including science and math, she said. Although technology has increased the ability to excel in other ways, reading develops comprehension and communication skills that are essential for all levels of learning.
Remembering the joy of reading with her children, Higgins began the Thunderbird Literacy Learning Program in the hopes of bonding children to reading.
The premise isn’t new. Children, are more engaged when presented with topics that interest them as well as in a way that is interesting.
“If you’re not interested, the children are not interested. It’s important to be engaging,” she said. “I watch the faces of the children as I read to see if they are really interested, or if I need to change it up. Children are really affected by voice, and intonation, it really takes it to another level.”
The literacy program is flexible. Aimed at children between ages six to 10, books are chosen with consideration of those who are in attendance, their age and interests. Old classics are given creative twists related to Aboriginal culture and limited only by the imagination.
If sitting still isn’t in the cards that day, children are read to as they participate in painting or crafts so they may still absorb the words being spoken, listening to tales such as The Bear That Stole the Chinook, or following along with stories related to the heroes of the Aboriginal tradition.
The Red Deer Friendship Centre, which offers the Thunderbird Literacy Learning Program, is also working to engage parents in storytelling, helping them to gain a better understanding of alternate parenting strategies. Parents are encouraged to participate with their children while Higgins weaves her magic.
Sarah Thompson, a social work practicum student, was one of a handful of non- Aboriginal participants at a recent storytelling workshop hosted by RDFC. An important message she took home was the idea of parenting as a universal language.
“It is important to share your experiences with the community because as a parent you only parent what you know but by sharing your stories with the community you are gaining the valuable experiences of others,” said Thompson.
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