Weekend Review: Show Me a Story by Emily K. Neuburger

To see a child completely immersed in a world of his or her own creation is to watch the very important work of childhood unfold. Kids need stories. We all do. The desire to tell and to hear narratives is written in our very bones. But as adults who may have lost touch with this all important need, it can be challenging to think of ways to encourage the development of storytelling skills in our kids. Show Me A Story: 40 craft projects and activities to spark children's storytelling by Emily K. Neuburger (2012, Storey) provides a fun guide to connecting with our kids by incorporating narratives in our our everyday play.

Neuburger, a blogger and educator who specializes in the intersection of art and writing, covers the complete progression of storytelling, from getting the spark of an idea started to deepening narrative skills. She opens by demonstrating how healthy access to imagination allows children to problem solve, build confidence, develop moral thinking, and increase communicative skills. This all needn't be drudgery though, and the activities that follow are suitable for sharing with the whole family. First are "story starters," 11 ways to find one's way into a story. This is followed by "story evolution," 10 exercises designed to deepen the storytelling experience; "story activities," 14 suggestions for incorporating story in your daily life; and finally, "story play," six games that expand what our notions of storytelling might be.

I will admit that when I picked this book up I was skeptical that there could really be any new ideas that would be too different from what I remember of my own elementary days, but I was completely wrong. Neuburger blew me away with her playful attitude and the genuine excitement with which she approaches this topic. Her suggestions are so organic that I can see them very seamlessly working into our daily rhythm. Most of the activities are targeted for children aged five through early adolescence (although she does give suggestions to include 3-5 year-olds). My little one is only 19 months-old, but I really look forward to trying out her ideas in the coming months and years. One that I'm most excited about is her story dice, in which you draw story sparks on each side of several dice (one for characters, one for places, etc.). I imagine breaking them as we all sit around the table for some post-dinner creative family time.

I also really love the ways in which she makes storytelling tangible. Her story stones, for example, are such a wonderful idea for making abstract notions (as story elements can so often be) into objects that children can hold in their hands and feel their weight as they move them around and use them to tell their stories. This one is a keeper. I found this book to be a valuable addition to my creative mama bookshelf and truly look forward to trying all of her projects, one by one.

My review copy was provided courtesy of Storey Publishing.

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