There are a wealth of excellent storybooks appropriate for primary children which raise questions about people, their relationships with each other and the wider world.
Storytelling is a distinctive and universal human activity, one of the means by which we make sense of our world and communicate our understanding to others: both orally, and in written forms; through character, narrative, setting and symbol; within and between communities and generations. It is therefore integral to our learning, and to our relationship with the world.
The following sections offer material to support in-school CPD on the use of story to open up the world for children and adds further support to the ideas explored in the handbook Global learning in primary schools [Tide~ 2008].
- What kinds of stories are most valuable to us?
- What texts do teachers recommend?
- How might we use stories with children?
~ Is there something distinctive we are looking for?
As part of a staff meeting or CPD session, we suggest that teachers work in small groups to consider the question ‘What makes a good story to open up the world?’
The PDF What makes a good story for opening up the world? shares the thoughts from other teacher groups. How does this list compare to yours?
In debriefing the activity, you may find the following prompts useful:
Tide~ teacher groups have explored a range of texts for opening up the world with children, bearing in mind the questions raised in section 1. As well as longer fiction texts, they have found it useful to identify picture books which offer a ‘way in’ to exploring issues, especially but not only for younger children. [Other articles offer more in-depth analyses on these resources]
Being a refugee
Two longer texts are Refugee Boy by Benjamin Zephaniah and Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. The refugee boy is Alem, who through astonishing circumstances, finds his future is in the hands of social services and the Refugee Council. Boy Overboard takes us on a journey with Jamal and Bibi. When their mother’s illegal school in Afghanistan is discovered they must flee the country and head for Australia. Both authors make these serious issues sometimes humorous and very accessible for upper Primary children.
|There are excellent picture books with powerful and striking images for exploring empathy. The Arrival by Shaun Tan is so much more than a picture book and uses only images to tell the story of a man who must leave his family to find sanctuary elsewhere. The Colour of Home by Mary Hoffman will support discussion about why children become displaced and how they feel when they have to start a new school in a new country. Passage to Freedom by Ken Mochizuki is based on the true story of Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese consul in Lithuania in 1940, whose offices are inundated with Jewish refugees seeking visas.|
Growing up in different places
Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges is one of the few picture books set in China. Ruby is growing up in old China and it is her determination that enables her to fulfil her wish. A useful text to use alongside it would be Yikang’s Day ~ From dawn to dusk in a Chinese city, by Sungwan So, from the excellent Frances Lincoln series, which can be used to raise discussion about life in China today and the commonality of children’s lives around the world.
For stories set in the Caribbean, teachers have recommended Hue Boy by Rita Phillips Mitchell and Jamela’s Dress by Niki Daley. Older children, will find much to explore in Zlata’s diary, a child’s life in Sarajevo, which demonstrates how normal, family life can be turned upside down by major world events.
Travelling to another country
A delightful book with stunning artwork is The London Jungle Book by Indian artist Bhajju Shyam who was commissioned to paint a mural on the walls of an Indian restaurant in London. It provides a brilliant visual portrayal of the feelings of trepidation and excitement that comes from travelling into the unknown.
Picture books about families that cross continents are Grandfather counts by Andrea Cheng and Grace and Family by Mary Hoffman. A young girl’s world is turned upside down when her Chinese grandfather comes to live with her in Grandfather counts and Grace learns to adjust her ideas about 'family' when she goes to visit her father in The Gambia.
Quetta lends itself well to drama and a more in depth discussion about identity. Set in 1890, this is the tale of the court case to determine custody of a young girl who loses her parents in a shipwreck.
As teachers, we use stories in a wide variety of ways, including:
- a focus for talk;
- an opportunity to explore others’ perspectives [eg looking at the world through others’ eyes, or getting a ‘feel’ for unfamiliar environments and situations];
- a ‘safe’ way for approaching emotionally and morally loaded issues;
- a starting point for enquiry;
- a focus for critical analysis [word, sentence, text, meaning, bias];
- an approachable context for history, geography, citizenship/PSHE etc, or a stimulus for drama and art;
- an entertainment or reward;
- a scaffold or model for children’s own creative work.
The PDF Activities for using stories shares some lively ideas for using story with children.
As part of a CPD session you could:
- Split up the activities among the group you are working with, so that each small group has two or three.
- Taking a theme they would like to work on, ask each group to take a story from one of the lists above [or one they are already familiar with].
- Ask them to try out two of the activities for using stories [at their own level], and feed back to the whole group about:
- what they did;
- some of the thinking processes involved in each activity;
- how they would use the activities to stimulate thinking about issues.
- They might also want to consider the use of drama and role play activities, using their story as an information base [for further ideas see Drama and role play – looking into an issue]