Stories can do a lot of things – soothe, entertain, enchant, even teach. And it’s not just the content of the story itself that teaches. It’s what stories require of us: the use of our imagination. Imagination lays the groundwork for critical social skills such as empathy.
It also nurtures creativity and curiosity, opening new worlds to us and inspiring to connect with people and places outside of our daily, routine sphere.
Storytelling was an important tool during my years as a school counselor. Often, I used relaxation journeys to connect to a child’s inner world. Those stories often began with the student suggesting an image they’d like to have during that journey.
A Foundation for Reading
One day, a boy who had been slow to show interest in books asked for a whale in the story. So together, we imagined that a whale met us at the ocean shore. The whale invited us to climb on its back, and we felt its slippery body underneath us. Then the whale took us under the ocean to explore all the wonders of the sea. The boy seemed delighted.
A few days later, he came into my room with a book he had found in the library. “Look, Mrs. Gillen!” he said, his eyes wide with wonder. “Whales!” He held up a beautiful picture book.
“Would you like me to look at it with you?” I asked. He nodded. Together we looked at the spectacular photos as I read about these magnificent beings to him.
Leading Guided Relaxations
In this clip from our Wellness 1 course, I talk about the art and science of leading guided relaxations. The storytelling tools we explore are essential for developing healthy rest and sleeping habits, reflection and mindfulness skills, imagination, and literacy.
Stories Can Unlock the Passion within a Child
When we use imaginative relaxation stories, children routinely open up and share their interests. We can explore new worlds together.
For instance, once time, I took a group of students on a mental journey to Nepal, a country I had trekked before and knew well. I told them stories from my experience, such as how the children there had never seen bubbles and how excited they were about the bubble solution I carried in my backpack.
Afterwards, they had so many questions! They asked me to bring in pictures so they could see the children. They wanted to find Nepal on the classroom globe. They wanted to send letters to the children there.
When we share from our hearts, our experience, and our own imagination, learning is exciting and fun. We open up curiosity and we can begin to explore the world together.
Bubble image by Laxman Thapa, via Flickr