I’ve written hundreds of pages –literally- about narration. I’ve written articles on how to narrate, why it’s important to narrate, what to do when narration troubles arise, different ways in which to narrate, etc. I’ve definitely been thinking about this! But, as I was thinking about my daughters and some of their favorite books over their childhood years, I realized something new about narration.
My daughters have a number of books which they fondly remember today. Many of these favorites gained that label simply because my daughters also have memories of childhood play attached to them. They remember Children of the New Forest, because they acted out scenes from this book in the backyard. They remember the world of Narnia, because they wore cloaks and carried wooden swords when they wished to travel through the wardrobe. So, when they are thinking back to some of their favorite memories as children, these also happen to be memories of them imaginatively reenacting scenes from their beloved books. I can still see them in the backyard dressed in long dresses making “dinner” from leaves, berries and acorns. I loved looking out a back window to see them so engagingly caught up in their world. The flush of warmth on their cheeks and the sparkle in their eyes as they breathlessly gave me a quick update on what was happening in this magical world of theirs was enchanting! I wished, sometimes, that every day could be this way for them.
How Does Narration Play a Role In Any Of This?
These imaginative moments of play were in direct response to a book that we were reading or had recently read. Charlotte Mason believed that books were meant to be read slowly enough to be savored; this gives children time to reflect on each scene as it unfolds. Allowing your children multiple methods and opportunities to narrate from this slowly savored book, gives them the time they need to do some of this reflecting. It is in reflection that connections are made.
When we ask our students to draw or paint a picture of a scene from a recent reading, we are allowing them time to consider what happened –in all its details- and then portray that scene. Painting and drawing evokes a child’s emotions and this, in turn, is incorporated into the picture as well. Now when children consider that scene they know it, they have reflected on it, tied emotion to it and now expressed all of that. Do you see now why just one simple artistic, creative narration for one single scene in a book has such an impact? Once this happens over the course of multiple readings, the child is now attaching to this book. They connect with it and it becomes a part of who “they” are. They want to express this even further and then do so in the form of play. This is what childhood is all about. They go outside and reenact it. They recreate scenes which then become remembered as childhood play.
How Do Children Go From Narration To Reflection?
It is through varied narration prompts that children are able to find multiple ways to find meaning and ideas through their books. Prompts such as “What would you have done differently if you had been ____?” or “Was ___ a good leader?”, “Which character showed courage? Tell about this.” or “Draw or paint a picture of any scene from this reading section.” These prompts give them the time and permission they need to ponder the characters, their actions and the themes presented. It gives them a position to consider or a question to deliberate in their mind. The variety stirs up ideas, thoughts and feelings in their hearts and minds. Because there are multiple narration prompts carried out through the course of the reading of the book, children are then able to look at the book from different angles, thus, increasing the number of ways that connections can be made.
This article wouldn’t be complete without at least some mention of the importance of the choice of books being read. The quality of the writing and the stimulation of the imagination play a huge role in the success of turning children’s books into childhood memories. Interesting characters, complex situations, fascinating settings and detailed, poetic language all contribute to beautiful books upon which children can grow.
From these beautiful books, narration should occur frequently and in a variety of ways as they are being read. It is really such a simple idea, but its effects are numerous and life-changing. Every time I think that I’ve uncovered all the various ways that narration is fundamental to a child’s education, yet another reveals itself to me.