Story telling has existed throughout cultures around the world from the beginning of time. Primarily, stories were passed on through the generations with oral language, points of interest in the environment and body actions all committed to memory.
In the modern day, stories are conveyed less through voice, as humans became better at writing them down for others to read; and more recently they are listened to via audio books and podcasts.
In education, a child develops holistically with the integrating of reading, writing and oral language skills. With the advancement of technology, some of the most important tactile hands on learning for early childhood development is lost and the ability to recall and retell stories decreases.
Felt stories and rhymes are a colourful tool to engage learners of all abilities, ages and cultures in the act of language acquisition and literacy learning. Together children and adults can retell common shared stories by manipulating felt crafted characters and settings to make the scenes enacting the events, problems and solutions. As children develop, they can recall the stories with minimal support and perform the stories for adults and siblings. They can then extend their imaginative processing by creating new stories with the characters and share them with peers within their families, classrooms and communities.
Photographs by KRC Photography.
You may be asking: How do felt stories connect communities?
Many years ago, my study buddy, turned friend and Early Childhood Mentor, Fran Fitch, was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Tumours (NET cancers): the cancer that took Steve Jobs and Aretha Franklin from our world. Five years ago, Fran decided to raise funds and awareness for the Unicorn Foundation (who support NET cancer patients and their families) and pass on her love of rhyme and stories through felt creations. I have been helping bring her favourite rhymes and stories to life by hand making characters and settings from blank felt canvases. We have been sharing our passion for early language and literacy development at the annual Quota Craft Fair and have raised many hundreds of dollars each year for the charity.
In this case, felt stories are a bridge that connects cancer patients with the wider community. When families visit the Unicorn Foundation stand at the Craft Fair held each October, not only are they being inspired by Fran’s exuberant retelling of the rhymes from memory to then share with their own family, they are becoming aware of the plight of NET cancer patients, how the Unicorn Foundation provides support and last but not least, the money raised from the selling of the hand crafted felt stories and rhymes goes directly to the Unicorn Foundation and their front line programs.
Felt stories are not just amazing for language and literacy development within the home; they have long been a popular instructional resource for teachers and educators. Felt rhymes and stories cater for all 8 of Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences: musical-rhythmic; visual-spatial; verbal-linguistic; logical-mathematical; bodily-kinaesthetic; interpersonal; intrapersonal and naturalistic intelligences. They can be used for whole class, small group, individual and differentiated learning tasks to retell familiar stories and create new ones using a tactile play-based learning philosophy.
Felt rhymes and stories can also connect communities across cultures as they share their traditional stories with each other and other members of the wider community and can assist in the language and vocabulary acquisition of another culture’s language through the shared understanding of common imagery of the felt characters and objects.
The fun, joy and excitement we see when a child chooses their own felt set makes all the hours, glue covered fingers and felt covered furniture all the more worthwhile.
The fun, joy and excitement felt intrinsically from helping my friend going through cancer, spreading the word about the Unicorn Foundation and the amazing work they do, is priceless. This year I lost count at over 20 hours of crafting, motivating my friend through her daily battles and helping put a laugh in her days. No amount of money can be put on the time I have spent with her when she has been in need.
I highly recommend being a volunteer for a charity and connecting with your community as it is not only paying the goodness forward, you are being the voice for those who can’t or don’t often speak up for themselves and studies have shown that doing works of charity also helps your own physical and mental wellbeing. In an ever-increasingly busy world, I understand it can be hard to find the time to invest in others. However, it can be as simple as a tax deductable monetary donation; spending time on the frontline generating awareness and raising funds; spending time in the background by offering your skill set by volunteering in a charity’s office; sparing a few moments to hit like and share on social media to spread the word through your digital networks or communities and it can be as simple as buying something as a gift for yourself or others, knowing the funds are going to a worthy cause. Every little bit helps!
In the words of Mother Teresa: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
For more information about World NET Cancer Day on 10 November 2018, the Unicorn Foundation and the support programs they run, please visit their website: https://www.unicornfoundation.org.au/
For more information about the Quota Craft Fair to visit the Unicorn Foundation Stand on 13-14 October 2018, please visit the event website:
Blog written by KR Clarry.
Brochure by The Unicorn Foundation.
Photograph by Special Memories Photography.
Author Bio of KR Clarry:
KR Clarry is an OP1 graduate of Logan and a Teacher of 13 years’ experience with a strong passion for life long learning. She has taught in State, Catholic and Independent schools as well as having roles with a University and an International Education Company delivering ICT professional development to school administrators, staff and students.
KR loves to read, write and bring stories alive through modelled and shared reading and writing experiences. She is currently working on many exciting projects.
When she isn’t lost in a world of creative imagination, KR likes to do ballroom dancing, bush walking and photography, as well as volunteering for a range of different community charities.
KR’s ultimate goal is to make a positive difference in the world and works to inspire children to aim high to be the best versions of themselves that they can be.