“There is fiction in the space between the lines on your page of memories” is the opening lyric in a beautiful song by TRACY CHAPMAN (1). We all have stories to tell. It is our human condition. But some are better in story telling than others. A good story is remembered and reiterated, and so is often the story-teller. There is some magic in telling a good story, nevertheless it can be learned. Narrative competence is a skill. Already at a young age you will find remarkable differences in story telling capacity in children. To express yourself in a narrative way demands structure and coherence, and more specifically cohesion of the fictional space you are creating. Good stories require all three of them. This too can be learned, best at an early age. Listening to children’s stories, for instance in Kindergarten when a teacher solicits reactions while opening the day at school may reveal the varieties in oral skill. Stories having a beginning, middle, and end appear next to a cascade of immediacies of reflection. But echoes of the mind must come forward in a clear lineup. It is then that the fiction in the narratively created space comes to life.
A systematic study on children’s’ narrative competence underlined that oral narrative practice is highly predictive of later competence in writing and written language proficiency. Especially, structure in oral narratives predicted written narratives but also coherence in stories. These two ingredients can be considered as organizers for the story teller to reflect upon and construct the story line.
Allowing children to speak up and have a floor to express their thoughts – in a structured manner – is something typical for the domain of education (2). What the study suggests is that instructional time for oral practice in emergent literacy will allow pupils to give format to their competence for later written productions. Story time generates space for children to produce well-thought-out phrasings of what they want to say. Because: “ you are not just telling stories”
Development in narrative competences from oral to written stories in five- to seven-year-old children. Giuliana Pinto, Christian Tarchi, Lucia Bigozzi Early Childhood Research Quaterly (2016) 36, 1-10. Elsevier