One reason stories are so special is because they can address tricky subjects, from moral dilemmas to more serious life challenges, in a creative and ‘cushioned’ way. This is true for adults and children, but there are many powerful stories to help school children in particular.
Mo and the Jumping Jelly – Sara Osman’s Tale from Today in Storytime Issue 49 – addresses an issue that might seem trifling but can be a big deal when you’re starting school. We’re talking school dinners. An unfamiliar system with queues and choices and people you don’t know! Strange foods you’ve never tasted before! Table manners! To some school starters, lunchtime can be daunting and can cause a lot of stress and tears. Some children are so petrified by it, they insist on packed lunches, and we know that some refuse to eat at all.
Mo and the Jumping Jelly is one of several stories for school we’ve published and it tries to address this issue. It shows the benefits of trying new foods and attributes funny but positive qualities to different dishes – jelly for energy, broccoli for brains, and so on. It also gently demonstrates why it’s never a good idea to miss lunch completely. (The wonderful illustration above is by Gaby Zermeno)
We’ve had a lot of positive comments from parents about this story and we’re happy that it has been helpful. This inspired us to pull together a selection of stories to help school children and parents face other dilemmas. Dip in and out as and when you need them!
5 Stories to Help School Children
1. For children who worry about being different. Different is good and there’s no better story to get this across than the lovely I Want to Be a Pencil Sharpener by Eszter Molnar in Storytime Issue 35. It’s school dress-up day, and Daisy’s refusal to conform is initially met with dissent by her classmates – but not for long!
2. For children who don’t like working as a team. There’s a lot of teamwork in school, and that can cause frustration, but it can also lead to huge triumphs. There are two great stories you can share with your children to express the advantages of learning to work as a team. The fable, The Four Harmonious Animals, which we published in Storytime Issue 4, and the enduring classic, The Enormous Turnip, which appeared in Storytime Issue 29. We have another great teamwork story coming up in Storytime Issue 50 called Team Small and Tall, so keep an eye out for that too.
3. For children who lack confidence in their own abilities. In Storytime Issue 37′s story Miss Beck’s Spectacular Specs by Amanda Brandon, the tables are turned. It’s a teacher who relies on the help and ingenuity of her class to get her out of a scrape. Children have amazing minds and this story will help assure them of that fact.
4. For children who refuse to see anyone else’s point of view. Trying to see arguments from other perspectives is a big learning curve for children. It’s one they’re thrown into as soon as they start school, when they encounter children from different backgrounds and beliefs. However, it’s a key life skill and one of the main building blocks of empathy. For a story that sums up the value of sharing other peoples’ perspectives, you can’t beat The Blind Friends and the Elephant. It’s a fable from Storytime Issue 16 and it’s pretty funny too.
5. For children who hate homework. Homework is tough when you’re little. With SATs, it only gets more intense as you move up through school. How do you encourage your child to keep at it even when they’re tired or bored? Try reading The Little Red Hen from Storytime Issue 47 or The Ant and the Grasshopper from Storytime Issue 8. Both feature main characters who put in the work even when they’d rather have help or do nothing. Both characters reap the rewards at the end and get results that make them feel proud.
Hopefully, these stories can help make your life a little easier and be helpful to children too. Sometimes, when nagging or constant reassuring doesn’t work, deploying a story can be just the thing you need. We’ll definitely include more stories to help school children in future issues. If you have any thoughts on dilemmas we can address, let us know via Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
Wishing you a dilemma-free week,