Category: Talks

10 Storytelling Books for Children 6 and under by Vincent van den Noort

10 Storytelling Books for Children 6 and under

I am an avid reader. 

Our son is now almost 5 years old, and I don’t think there were many days without us reading books or telling stories to him. When he was just a baby, I made up little stories for him. It was all about hearing my voice and just being together. I don’t have the illusion that he remembers those tales 😉

Telling stories is our little ritual. Every evening after dinner we sit together and explore the stories. Storytelling is about using your imagination and creating magic and a sense of wonder in the world.  It started out with very simple and short stories that I told over and over (and over, and over) again. I can still tell these stories without having to look at the books. One of the most popular stories was Nijntje Pluis, called Miffy in English.

As he grows older, the stories become more elaborate. My range as a storytelling actor has expanded, and I can now easily play a cast of 5 characters with their own voices. 

We always like to take elements of stories and build our own stories from them. He comes up with the hero and the cast of characters (usually plush animals), and then we think about the build-up, the challenge that the hero has to solve, and how it all comes together in the end. It’s amazing to see how creative kids are, and how his children’s logic leads to fantastical stories. 

The most beautiful part is that these stories aren’t “just” stories. They give a peek into his mind and let him playfully express his emotions.

I hope that I’ve instilled a fondness for storytelling in him too, that will last a lifetime. For now, I cherish our travels into these fantastical worlds. I think I’ll have a tough time when he says: “Dad, I can read these books by myself”.

Why is storytelling so important?

Telling stories is one of the oldest forms of teaching. In caves around the world, we can see storytelling paintings that are from the time we were still hunting Mammoths. Stories bond humans, they define us, shape us and make us. Every single culture in the world tells stories to teach us about love, life, ourselves, and those around us. It’s how we learn to understand the world.

“If you want your children to be smart, tell them fairy tales. If you want them to be brilliant, tell them more fairy tales.“ – Albert Einstein

Science shows us that storytelling is more than just a fun pastime. Storytelling has a positive effect on the social, emotional, and cognitive development of children. Young children enjoy reading, writing, and listening to stories, and from the stories, they are able to understand more about society and life in general. 

Did you know that science shows storytelling and story reading helps young children with:
  • Improving language acquisition (Lucarevschi, 2016; Miller & Pennycuff, 2008; Speaker et al., 2004)
  • Improve their oral or spoken language (Cooper, 2009; Cremin et al., 2018; Isbell et al., 2004; Typadi & Hayon, 2010)
  • Develop reading comprehension (Craig et al., 2001; Haven & Ducey, 2007)
  • Make sense of basic mathematics (Casey et al., 2008; Goral & Gnadinger, 2006; Pramling & Samuelsson, 2008)
  • Explain science (Hu et al., 2020; Preradovic et al., 2016; Valkanova & Watts, 2007; Walan, 2019)
  • Prepare for school (Nicolopoulou et al., 2015)
  • Communicate effectively (Sundin et al., 2018)
  • Help children to learn and appreciate their world (Cremin et al., 2018; Vélez & Prieto, 2018)
  • Improve cross-cultural communication (Al-Jafar & Buzzelli, 2004)
  • Promote moral and social development (Bailey et al., 2006; Burns & Rathbone, 2010; Thambu, 2017).
Pretty impressive, huh?

Children’s brains are like little sponges. They absorb the words and sentences, equipping them with the vocabulary to articulate thoughts and experiences. When they are able to express their needs and emotions better, it develops their social skills and self-confidence. Through stories, they also become aware of the emotions of others and learn to be empathetic.

Stories and fables show little ones commonly accepted cultural ways and norms. But not just from books. Grandparents narrating stories from their childhood, or sharing funny memories of the child’s mother or father teach the child about ways and norms.

I am always impressed by the breadth and depth of the vocabulary my son already has. I’m certain that, at least part of it, is from the many books and stories we’ve read. Hearing a four-year-old saying he finds something “mildly amusing” is hilarious to me.

How to become a great storyteller

Everyone has it in them to become a great storyteller. I’ll share a few learning that I’ve had in my four-year journey as a dad. One stands out before all others: Don’t read a book to them, read it with them. That doesn’t mean you have to be together, but you do want to make a connection. Look at them (or the camera) when you read, talk to them and ask them questions. Reading is about making a connection and exploring this magical world together. 

General tips

Make sure they’re settled in, for instance, cozy on the couch. We love reading in front of the fireplace, a small fire crackling in the hearth. Create a bit of anticipation before you start: “Ooh, I can’t wait to find out what happens to the little owl”. This sets the stage for a great story.

  • Read a lot

Get into the habit of telling stories often. For young kids, simple stories of one minute are fine. As they get older, the stories can get longer. If they can talk or point, you can also let them pick a book they love. But be prepared, kids usually love hearing the same story a billion times.

If you’re using an app like Peekabond to read stories, you’re in luck. Record it once, and they can rewatch it a billion times 😉

  • Be fun and playful

A great storyteller is a playful storyteller. Use your whole acting repertoire to make a story fun and engaging. Read with fun in your voice, and add quirky sound effects for extra effect. You can even sing a book if you want. And don’t forget your facial expressions. It’s not about the words, but how you tell them.

Is there a monster around the corner? Slow down, bring your voice down to a whisper and bring the listener to the edge of their seat. Is the monster talking? Talk in a growl. Or, for comedic effect, make it sound silly. You’re the storyteller, make it come alive!

  • Go deeper

There is more to a story than it seems at the surface. Ask the kid questions about the story, or the meaning of specific words. Engage them in the story: “Do you think that is smart? What would you do?” Trigger their imagination. You can also point out pictures, or ask them to point them out. I always enjoy asking my son to read a story back to me. He can’t read yet, but hearing him tell the story in his own words is often surprising and fun.

Something that is very helpful in understanding their own emotions and how others are feeling, is talking about the emotions of the characters. You can ask questions like: “How do you think the fox is feeling? Is he angry?”. You can also relate it to their own life: “have you ever been angry?” This is a great way to talk about emotions together.

My Top 10 storytelling books

We have A LOT of children’s books, so it was hard to pick a top 10. So I tried to think back on the stories that we told the most, the ones that he still picks even though we’ve told them a million times.

And of course, they’re stories that I like to tell. So without further ado, here is my top 10 in no particular order.

Little Owl Lost

Uh-oh! Little Owl has fallen from his nest and landed with a whump on the ground. Now he is lost, and his mommy is nowhere to be seen! With the earnest help of his new friend Squirrel, Little Owl goes in search of animals that fit his description of Mommy Owl. 

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/8036503

Why I picked this book: It was the first story I read to my son. The artwork is beautiful and the story is funny and lovely. We still pick it up from time to time.

Tow-truck Pluck

Pluck has a little red tow truck. He drives it all over town looking for a place to live. Pluck makes lots more friends and solves all kinds of problems. 

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30030547-tow-truck-pluck

Why I picked this book: This book is a Dutch classic. I read it as a child, and it’s still being read in classes today. The characters are great and the story is very compelling.

The Greedy Goat

A very greedy goat wreaks havoc in the barnyard in an entertaining cautionary tale from Petr Horacek.Goat is tired of always eating herbs and grass. She wants to try something new! So one day she embarks on a tasting spree, trying the dog’s food, the pig’s potato peels, and more, with the farmer’s underpants topping off a massive meal. 

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/36095356

Why I picked this book: Not my personal favorite, but my son loves it. Especially the goat eating the farmers underpants (bleh!)

The Lion Inside

A rhyming story about one little mouse trying to make himself heard and discovering along the way that even the smallest of us has the heart of a lion.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26257320-the-lion-inside

Why I picked this book: The moral of this story is a very positive one (you don’t have to be strong to be brave), and the rhyme makes it a lot of fun to read.

Hungry Caterpillar 

One sunny Sunday, the caterpillar was hatched out of a tiny egg. He was very hungry. On Monday, he ate through one apple; on Tuesday, he ate through three plums–and still he was hungry. When full at last, he made a cocoon around himself and went to sleep, to wake up a few weeks later wonderfully transformed into a butterfly!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/4948.The_Very_Hungry_Caterpillar

Why I picked this book: It’s an all time classic. The artwork is beautiful and it gives an amazing insight into one of the marvels of nature, the metamorphosis of the butterfly. 

The Guffalo 

This is a rhyming story of a mouse and a monster. Little mouse goes for a walk in a dangerous forest. To scare off his enemies he invents tales of a fantastical creature called the Gruffalo. So imagine his surprise when he meets the real Gruffalo.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1013383.The_Gruffalo

Why I picked this book: It’s about a witty mouse. Like the “Lion Inside”, it shows a child that it’s better to be smart than to be strong. I love doing the voices of the enemies and the Gruffalo.

Where the Wild Things Are

Max, a wild and naughty boy, is sent to bed without his supper by his exhausted mother. In his room, he imagines sailing far away to a land of Wild Things. Instead of eating him, the Wild Things make Max their king.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19543.Where_the_Wild_Things_Are

Why I picked this book: This book is all about imagination. And for kids, seeing a naughty boy like Max is very interesting. The artwork is timeless, and Alt-J used the story in their song Breezeblocks.

 

The Tortoise and the Hare

Tortoise proves he is a formidable opponent in this comic adaptation of a classic tale.

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/1363829

Why I picked this book: Again a classic. It teaches kids that arrogance doesn’t pay, and it’s a funny story.

Winnie the Pooh

The adventures of Christopher Robin and his friends in which Pooh Bear uses a balloon to get honey, Piglet meets a Heffalump, and Eeyore has a birthday.

https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/99107.Winnie_the_Pooh

Why I picked this book: My son loves the stories. I like how the stories show a variety of emotions through the characters. Eeyore is always sad, and Pooh is sometimes quite egocentric. Even with their differences, they get along.

BONUS: Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 tales of extraordinary women

What if the princess didn’t marry Prince Charming but instead went on to be an astronaut? What if the jealous step sisters were supportive and kind? And what if the queen was the one really in charge of the kingdom? Empowering, moving and inspirational, these are true fairy tales for heroines who definitely don’t need rescuing

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33016249-good-night-stories-for-rebel-girls

Why I picked this book: Stories define how children see the world. This is a great book that’s not just for rebel girls, but also for boys. Children’s books should reflect and celebrate the diversity in our world, and these stories are a great addition.

About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peakabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. To try storytelling activities at Peekabond go here. 

OK Play speaks to Peekabond

Peekabond meets OK Play!

We have all seen a lot of development in virtual technology. Families, friends and loved ones found themselves separated from one another in response to Covid-19. A difficult time for many, as children grew up inside the safety of their homes with less interaction with Grandparents, loved ones and friends. 

Suddenly, our existing video technologies were found sincerely lacking. The need for creative, inspirational applications became apparent. Keeping families connected in a playful way became a driving force for many innovative tech companies, including Peekabond and our friends at OK Play. 

Educational, versus fun versus meaningful connection

These days, screen time gets a bad rap. It’s no wonder really, children can be exposed to apps all day long. Many students state they would rather learn from an app than in a real physical lesson. There are some huge benefits to consider here. Children learn in different ways and apps can provide individualised learning, which cannot be simulated in a traditional classroom. It’s important to understand your child as an individual and recognise what tools they might need. Educational apps face problems when children become distracted from their lessons and fail to remain on topic. Too many educational apps can disrupt the curriculum being taught at school, taking the focus away from the information children need to move forward with their learning, instead of sideways. However, both Peekabond and OK Play are committed to meaningful connections and interactions with children through technology. 

OK Play

This month, Anieke (our CEO) and Alyea (Chief Play Scientist) connected with the inspiring Dr. Colleen Russo Johnson (also Chief Scientist) at ‘OK Play’. 

"Colleen is one of the most inspiring people I've come across since founding Peekabond. Not only is she a cofounder of OK Play, she's also a co-founder of the ‘Children’s Media Lab’ and above all: a Mom. She sets an example of being very open, collaborative, and transparent about her key learnings being a Chief Scientist at OK Play. The path of OK Play is an inspiring journey for Peekabond.”
Anieke
Founder Peekabond

Here at Peekabond, we are very keen to learn about new, better or different ways to improve the connection between families at a distance. Creating relationships with other app developers, specifically apps for children, helps all of us in the marketplace push the needle forward in service and functionality. 

What is OK Play?

OK Play is a digital platform where kids create their own stories and videos, and share them with a community of other awesome young creators.

OK Play has a unique way of connecting generations by creating content that invites the grown-ups into the experience. Kids can co-star in content with grandma, or send their new creation to a loved one.

What does Colleen do as Chief Scientist at OK Play? 

Lots of roles add up to being the Chief Scientist of OK Play. Colleen reviews all scripts from a child development and educational perspective, curates the content that shows up in the app, and writes education related copy. Overseeing the content once it’s in the app is a large part of her role. Specifically in weekly play testing OK Play conducts.  She explained how in addition to reporting on key findings and recommendations, her research team creates a playtesting video reel so the entire OK Play team can hear directly from their users. 

Colleen also oversees user content moderation – a large team that approves and rejects user-submitted content based on safety guidelines. Her team also puts together regular “creator insights” reports based on the content kids submit into the app, to better understand what kids are interested in and how they’re using the app. After that, there’s social media, PR, podcasts, blog content, and award submissions to collaborate on with the OK Play team. She also conducts original research on topics important to the company (e.g. a recent collaborative project looking at how families talk about race and racism, resulting in an upcoming guide). 

How does Community Factor in at OK Play?  

Creating a direct line of communication with users is critical for OK Play. Colleen and her team build a rapport with the parents and children using the app. In this way, OK Play champions ‘super creators.’ Weekly spotlight videos also feature dozens of children’s submitted content which encourages positive activity in the community. Forming relationships with non-profit organizations and academic organizations is also hugely beneficial and supports ongoing collaborations, which are key to growth and development. 

Who Is The Target User? 

OK Play has become even more child-focused than parent-focused, meeting the momentum of COVID-19. Their core focus point is to spark creative skills in children, empowering children by teaching that self-expression is meaningful. Colleen says that they continually found that older school-aged kids were using the app, and they decided to lean into that, because kids in the 6-10 age bracket have limited options, and most are pure entertainment. Colleen sees OK Play as a unique and refreshing way to tap into children’s desire to creatively express themselves through art and storytelling.

It’s inevitable that children will start to have their own devices at earlier ages as time goes on. The average age a child is given a smartphone is now estimated at 10 years of age. Responsible screen time and kid-focused apps are more important than ever.

How Does OK Play Create Content? 

Colleen says, “A combination of brilliant creatives, subject-matter experts, and most importantly — kids! We always start with a really great story, which is led by Craig Lewis and Travis Chen on our team, and we weave the lessons in naturally by collaborating at every stage starting at concept ideas.”

Then, by play testing every week. OK Play works directly with the content and creative teams which enables them to create challenging content that inspires creativity. OK Play keeps a close eye on app activity and moderates everything that comes in. Taking a keen interest in what the children are doing helps to develop their own content ideas. 

What about fun?

OK Play believes in making it fun. As Colleen says, “If kids aren’t engaged and having fun, they won’t learn as much. Kids learn best when having fun.“

Onwards and upwards

We’ve learned a lot from OK Play. Sharing tips and exchanging ideas with other brilliant app developers is one of our favourite pastimes. We can’t wait to start implementing some of these key elements to Peekabond! 

 

About Peekabond

Anieke Lamers, our CEO created Peekabond at the onset of Covid-19. A mobile app to help global families bond with young children remotely. Inspiring families to create playful and engaging moments with young children.

Asynchronous video connection and inspirational science-based content suggestions. Allowing families and loved ones to share small moments and build better bonds. Every play experience is designed with care and approved by child development experts. Always age appropriate. Always private and secure, never showing ads. Our intention is to build a movement that connects families across borders and over generations. 

You can download Peekabond here