REESE, Elaine Tell Me a Story. Sharing stories to enrich your child’s world OUP, 2013 242pp NZ$57.95 ISBN 9780199772650
As Barbara Hardy (1977) noted many years ago, narrative is a primary act of the mind (in contrast to the paradigmatic which highlights argument-based, logical discourse). We learn to think primarily through the discourse of narrative. Therefore it follows that encouraging children’s experience of, and expertise in, the discourse of narrative, of storytelling, is a profoundly empowering business, central to learning. But what does this mean practically? This text is vital for effective parenting, as well as teacher education, in that it takes up this theory and applies it through a developmental perspective.
Aimed at parents and teachers of toddlers, pre-schoolers, , primary level school children, pre-teens and adolescents, the book identifies both developmental snapshots and the consequential implications for story sharing, and practical tips for sharing stories for the focus age group. Grounded on both life experience as well as hard science research, the text is written avoiding specialised language that disengages and instead written in a communicative way, with anecdotes to give life to the point being made.
Additionally, pertinent issues like the pros and cons of technology and modern media are considered, appropriately indicating at times the strengths and limitations of the data that supports or negates the argument. Cultural aspects are included and acknowledged (the chapter ‘All kinds of children, all kinds of families’) but the depth of awareness of the nature of literary texts themselves could have been more detailed. For example, the emphasis on the teleological, linear plot as a an ‘almost universal’ narrative structure needs unpacking in that, even in the West, contrast , circular and complex plots abound, especially those with a postmodern twist. Given that picture books are a focus, the role of the image in the shaping of narrative tends to be understated. Given however that story in all its guises is a massive business, no text can ever be ‘complete’. In saying this, I would highly recommend this text for all parents and beginning teachers in order to obtain a sound ground to develop a shared, constructivist approach to negotiating story and meaning. Highly recommended. JMcK