#NSSM15 Sharing stories in secondary schools

Today we’ve a post from FCBG Executive member and school librarian Chris Routh, in which she explores the different ways of sharing stories in secondary schools.

“Last year was the first year that I attempted to make a focus of National Share-a-Story Month in the secondary school where I work. I presented a whole school assembly about the importance, benefits and enjoyment of sharing stories for all ages. In celebration of the oral tradition, I showed a beautifully animated version of A Story, A Story by Gail Haley (sadly no longer available), which explains how Anansi the spider-man tricked the Sky God into giving him all the stories of the world. Members of the Y7/8 Book Club were also invited to attend a lunchtime sleepover, where they shared some of their favourite bedtime stories. Nobody complained that what we were doing was too babyish. In my experience, secondary aged students enjoy revisiting experiences and books from their childhood as much as adults do.

While it seems quite natural and fitting to share stories on a daily basis with preschool and primary aged children both at home and at school, it is perhaps a less common experience for many young people at secondary school. National Share-a-Story Month provides the perfect opportunity to redress the balance and this year’s Dragon theme has been perfect for all ages!

Looking back over the time I have been a secondary school librarian, I realise that stories about dragons have always been amazingly popular and more than often it has been the students who have recommended them to me rather than the other way round. It’s thanks to their suggestions over the past few years, that we now stock books by Chris D’Lacey, Christopher Paolini, Cressida Cowell and even George Martin, whose books were recommended by a sixth former after borrowing the Game of Thrones series from his father. I believe that making recommendations and enthusiastic book-talk is a very powerful and valid way of sharing stories.

School book groups provide a ‘safe place’ for established readers to share their passion about reading. We don’t always read the same book together, but when we do, I often read the first few chapters to them to help them ‘get into’ the book. Nothing can beat reading aloud. Students in older groups have sometimes elected to read aloud in turn, many proving to have a real talent for multiple voices, intonation and pace. It can be a great way to help a group with different reading tastes and abilities to commit to a new book. Reading play scripts together has also been incredibly popular with some groups – often resulting in just a little bit of silliness and quite a lot of side-aching laughter.

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Our youngest students have also enjoyed sharing stories with children from local primary and prep schools. A couple of years ago, as part of a larger project to promote reading for pleasure, a group of Y7 students were challenged to create an activity for Y2 students based on Julia Donaldson’s picture book story about Zog the dragon. The aim was to bring the story to life for their younger audience. With the help and encouragement of their tutor, they wrote a play script about stolen dragon eggs; devised games to engage the children with; created dragon wings, tails and headdresses, plus a knight’s armour and a variety of props; rehearsed and refined their performance; and presented it with great confidence and aplomb on the day as part of a carousel of other story-based activities.
As well as giving our students an insight into what makes a good story, it also gave them the opportunity to experience what it is like to share stories with others. The enjoyment of both the storytellers and their audience was written all over their faces!

Sharing stories is a fundamental part of being human – we are all storytellers and we all enjoy listening to stories of one kind and another. National Share-a-Story Month is the ideal time to reflect on the benefits and joys of sharing stories for young and old alike and to celebrate the fabulous range of stories that we are lucky enough to have at our fingertips.”

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