Today, the 31st of January 2020, will mean many things to many people. I decided that for me, today is going to be a monumental step forward in my work. Something to celebrate. Something that I can control and more importantly, something where I can make a difference.
So I put aside the imposter syndrome and, having completed a monumental piece of research which combines both science and the performing arts, I'm publishing my first paper into Early Years language and literacy development and parental engagement. Boom!
The Story STARs project started more than 4 years ago, when I decided to put to use my science degree and research Early Years Literacy & Language Development, and how Story Storks was achieving just that. For those of you who don't know, the fact that Story Storks develops early years language and literacy is a complete accident - I was only trying to create a job where I could wear leg warmers to work!
It has taken me into a whole world of scientific papers, government reports and TED Talks. At times it became so technical that I thought I would never be able to share the results with the people who needed to hear it - the parents who bring their kids to Story Storks.
But then, at the end of a mind-blowing amount of data and reading and academia, I managed to simplify it all right down to STARs
If you Sing, Talk, Act out stories and Read with your Early Years child, you will give them all the skills they need to be able to read for themselves when the time is right. The earlier you start, the easier they'll find it to read when they go to school. Simple!
Singing develops phonological awareness which put simply is the ability to distinguish individual sounds in a word. Without it, a child will struggle with phonics.
Talking and Acting out stories help to develop a broad vocabulary which a child will also need to read.
And reading to them not only develops language skills but lays the foundations for kids reading for themselves.
This research set out to understand if arming parents with the STARs activities and explaining a little of the science would make a difference to them. It did. It also brought to light that parents need a bit of help with ideas and that we have a great deal of work to do if we want our children to grow up to be readers for pleasure.
Readers for pleasure?
Yes, readers for pleasure. There is a wealth of evidence that those kids get better results at exam time. Whole grades better. I'm yet to find any evidence that the kids who are pushed to read get better results at exam time, and if you put them off reading then you could actually make life harder for them.
This piece of research has generated new projects which will be announced in the very near future and this time, those projects are evidence-based on purpose! It is my hope that these projects will make a difference to those who have taken on the mammoth task of parenting which in turn will help a whole generation of kids to fall in love with stories, become readers for pleasure, get better exam results which may lead to better well-paid jobs and champagne for breakfast during your retirement! Whilst I am yet to find the evidence for the latter, it's surely got to be worth giving STARs a go...just in case!
You can find the paper by clicking HERE
This project was made possible thanks to a New Initiatives Grant from Kingston Council.
Sarah Cantrill BSc Hons FRSA, January 2020
Other posts by the Author that you might find interesting:
We found a Crocodile! Sarah Cantrill is a woman on a mission to help and inspire every Early Years child in the UK and beyond to become a reader for pleasure. She does this through her day job as Artistic Director of Story Storks, an Early Years Theatre company who unlock the magic of fairytales through Interactive Story Workshops and Theatre to help kids build the language skills they need to read, and most importantly, to fall in love with stories.