My work with EYFS (Early Years and Foundation Stage)

Telling stories to under fives is so very very important.  If we can convince a child early on that stories are magical then perhaps we make them a reader and maybe we change their future.  That isn’t to say it’s easy.  After I quit my day job and decided that I was going to tell stories for a living I was prepared to do pretty much any job that came my way and when local nursery school invited me to do 30 minutes with them every fortnight I jumped at the opportunity.  Now, I have worked with all kinds of different challenging behaviours, children with profound complex needs and even teenagers but these sessions with 0-3 year olds were some of the toughest I have EVER run.  Having been a father to Verity for almost 16 months I laugh about it now but back then I dreaded these sessions because I felt out of my depth and simply didn’t know what to do.  Spin forward to today and working with under fives is my bread and butter.  I work fairly regularly in EYFS (Early Years and Foundation Stage) settings and have even run staff training with nursery workers and sessions with new parents around telling stories.  I have developed a really solid set of traditional folk tales which go down really well in schools and I am making tentative steps into running under fives drop in sessions for libraries too.

So what’s changed in 10 years?  Well, being a Daddy probably helps- fatherhood has taught me many things including patience, understanding and being more adaptable– but mainly its about recognising the different ways that children learn and play.  When doing drop in sessions and nursery sessions I have a set format for delivery so if I am doing a regular set the audience know what to expect.  I will vary the pace of a session by incorporating different activities, games, songs and rhymes as well as stories.  I pack my storytelling with movement and the opportunities for the children to participate through repetition and instead of just using words I’ll use sounds, songs and rhymes to make the narrative more accessible and fun.  My acting career is a distant memory but I still sometimes deliver in role to enhance the experience and bring a different dimension to the sessions.

“Younger children’s attention span is not the same as older children. John knew exactly how to engage very young audience whilst telling the story and most children enjoyed being involved in the story. What impressed me most during story telling was that one baby about 7 months old was so mesmerised by John’s storytelling and her eyes were glued to him the whole time!” (Librarian, Northamptonshire, June 2018)

Once upon a time I was terrified by the thought of telling a story to a room of babies.  My confidence has grown because I have gained experience from working in the environment and learning from talented early years professionals and the children themselves.  There’s one word that sums up telling stories to Early Years and Foundations Stage children: joyful.