Look at how we can listen to our children’s stories, as young as they may be, even as we help them create their own storybooks
Making a storybook with children is an exciting and exhilarating process for both the parent and the child. Children as young as 18 months are ready to tell their stories. Are we ready to hear them? Even your little three-month-old baby is ready to listen to stories and watch picture books. While it may seem to you that your baby cannot speak or even stay still long enough to listen to the book, remember that his brain is growing and he is constantly learning. The more books the children see and the more stories they hear, the more ready they are to speak and share their own stories with you.
|18 months to 3 years|
Often, their stories are simple disjointed words that are connected to their immediate experiences. Listen to them making connections between an evening in the park and playing on the swing. With your guidance, your child can fill her picture book with squiggles. As you make sense of her disjointed words, write them out in simple, short sentences against the picture and read them aloud to her.
Encourage her to start scribbling as soon as she can hold a crayon or chalk. If your little one tends to eat everything around her, don’t fret. Stay around her when she is coloring, and put back the colors safely - till she learns that colors are not meant for eating. On the other hand, you can also give her, as substitutes, vegetables, fruits, and other ingredients that tend to stain (turmeric, beetroot, or purple grapes). With encouragement, the child will let you peek into her amazing imaginative world and share her imaginary friends with you.
My own two-year-old niece tells us riveting tales of four tigers, who are her imaginary friends. We have even witnessed events where her tigers are put to multiple tasks of cleaning up the room after her. Upon questioning, we discovered that while listening to Jungle Book, she liked Bagheera, (Mowgli’s friend) who has now become her friend called ‘Puli’. Of late, the tigers and their antics have multiplied. We just need to open up to them.
With the preschoolers, storybook-making opens us to the amazingly creative and imaginary worlds they live in. While working with children of this age, we got to know about an ocean that had to be pasted together all the time, because it kept breaking; an interesting paatima who could hang jalebis in a magic sky for everyone to eat; a cow that was naughty enough to keep scribbling; and many such interesting stories. You can expect stories at a rapid rate, facts and fantasy mingling with each other. In our workshops that span 12 two-hour classes, we see each child come up with eight to 10 stories. Each child finally makes books with collections of simple, imaginative, and expressive stories.
Watch them construct characters, explore identities, and listen to stories that leave behind an impression. Often, their stories are inspired by the books they read and the characters they love. It is important to tell the children to be original and explain to them what ‘original’ means. In the end, they create beautiful stories filled with compassion, revealing the innocence and beauty of their inner selves.
Pre-teens are on the brink of self-identity and self-discovery. They need to express their thoughts and ideas, and with conviction. These children are often shy and unsure of themselves. More than the technicalities of making a book, for you as a parent, the true journey lies in guiding them to look deep within.
|15 years and above|
Book-making becomes a powerful form of self-expression. For some children, a rare strength and passion can be lit through this route. Parents can provide guidance when asked. They can read the book to get an insight into their child’s mind.
As parents, you can nurture in children the skill to tell stories, help them visualize results through images, and extend the narrative into the form of a book. This can be done with children of any age. When children realize that you are there for them, ever willing to listen to them, that you respect and value their thoughts, their innate ability to tell stories will flower.
Creating an illustrated storybook is a difficult, complex, and demanding activity. Several cognitive, creative, and artistic processes work together to create a storybook. While children enjoy doing this arduous task in a playful manner, each child’s ability, his involvement, and his simplest attempts need to be appreciated. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
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