New - Sign up to our Monthly Story Newsletter here!

The Art of Listening at Story-time

In my teaching travels and online courses, I hear teachers say ‘the children just can’t sit and listen at story-time’.  This has become a familiar lament for teachers and parents.

Truth be told, research shows that across the board, children’s hearing has diminished.

This is partly due to:

*the bombardment of noise, damaging the delicate hearing apparatus

*at the same time there is an over-stimulation of the visual sense – the hearing sense gets ‘forgotten', and could use some gentle exercising.

*we don’t offer enough subtle live listening opportunities to our children

Our own storytelling voice gives us the opportunity to bring ‘lifted’, conscious, lovely clear language and voice quality that will engage our children’s listening experience.

First, we create a story imagination.  This gives us, as storytellers, the inner pictures that help us ensoul our voice with this imagination in the form of warmth, wonder, and archetype.  A ‘king’ is spoken like the upright royal wisdom that he embodies.  You will speak a ‘young child’ character with levity and joy in your voice.  Each part of the story has a different ‘archetypal quality that we can speak to life.

When a child listens to this kind of story voice, one, they will be drawn into the story with interest.  This will help them sit in 'listening calm'.  Two, this will give their hearing sense practice taking in the finer sounds of language, which will deepen with the regular rhythm of your story-time.

Listening in nature also gives us practice in taking in more delicate qualities of sound.  Our hearing sense is nurtured. I like to go to a 'sit spot' in nature, one where there will be no distractions by cars, lots of people, playground noises etc.  Then I just sit and listen.  Sometimes I close my eyes, I breathe rhythmically and become awake to the natural sounds around me.  There are so many bird songs and calls, wind whooshes, frogs croak, peepers peep... bees buzz, leaves rustle. See if you can hear 10 different nature sounds.... how about 20?  Listen to the quiet too.  Your sense of hearing is being renewed.    Try this with a small group of children!  Maybe ask them to hear 5 different sounds.  Can they hear the flutter of a butterfly?

Extra care in helping children listen to truthful things will also renew their listening ear.

During Storytime, try engaging your voice with wonder and warmth, this will immediately attract children to enter your story.  Vary your voice to indicate the truth of character.  What helps the child's imagination see the King quality by simply using your voice?  How is this different from the young princess?  We are talking subtle, truthful, archetypal... not caricature or sentimentality.

I also like to bring in a musicality.  Where does the pacing pick up or slow down.  Where is it quiet, as in night settling, or  a bit fuller when the Wind Whoooshes through the forest.  All of these things enliven a story in honesty.

Listen to water, go on a 'Listening Walk' with the children.


To try this out in a guided way on video, look at my online course on 3 Tips to Transform Your Storytelling - Click Here for details.  You can send audio examples of you doing the exercises, and if you would like feedback I am happy to share next steps for you.  It is all easy on the online platform!

Do sign up  for our Free Early Childhood Puppetry Email Newsletter, bringing artlcles on story and puppetry, stories to tell, poem stories for puppetry, upcoming events, and be the first to hear about a free course or tutorial... all in your own inbox.  Click Here for easy sign up