Demise in storytelling damaging children's writing ability

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A poll of primary school teachers shows that more than one in two teachers believe children are starting school without ever having been read a story at home.

The research, carried out by Oxford University Press, also reveals a staggering 72% of teachers think primary school children today are less able to tell stories than they were 10 years ago. These are concerning findings given that reading and storytelling play a huge part in developing and improving children’s writing skills. 

Nearly 100% of the teachers surveyed believe reading and storytelling enables children to be more creative writers. Despite reading levels actually improving, attainment in writing is not progressing as strongly, largely because of children’s inability to re-tell a story. Children who are read tales at home build up a store of patterns and ideas which can be vital in developing their own stories.

Pie Corbett, literacy expert, former primary head teacher and inspector, and educational advisor to the Government said: “To develop children as writers, reading is absolutely essential. Every teacher knows the best writers, the most proficient writers, are always readers. It not only gives children language, it also develops their imaginations. Storytelling is also hugely important, as the ability to tell a story is developed by building up a bank of well-known tales to draw upon.

"Those who struggle may not yet have built up that storehouse; for example, if they are not read to at home, they are unfamiliar with the language patterns. It is not to do with being ‘unimaginative’ or ‘unintelligent’. Narrative is a necessary, primary act of mind and natural to all human beings – we are all story-makers whether we like it or not.”

Evidence shows that if children are able to tell a story, they can begin to write one.

The Talk for Writing initiative, launched by Pie Corbett and the Primary National Strategy in 2008 to encourage a dynamic approach to children’s creative writing, has been proven to double the rate of success of writing in children, says Pie.

Pie Corbett said: “The Talk for Writing storytelling approach was used as a basis for improving writing in a teacher research project in Lewisham, titled 'Stories to tell, stories to write'. Research carried out in Lewisham Local Authority found strong evidence, 100% of the children made expected progress and 80% made better than expected progress. The project concluded that the approach should become a key focus for raising written standards in Lewisham schools.”

Supporting the growing success of Talk for Writing, Jane Harley, Head of Primary Publishing at Oxford University Press, said: “Writing is an essential skill and not just an educational issue. Children need it to participate fully in today’s society.”

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