Every evening, we listen to Crevette (6 years 2 months) reading the book he has chosen at school, and the girls generally pick a story each as well. I try to encourage them to choose a book in French but they generally prefer to be read to in English. I have also started reading a chapter of Enid Blyton’s The Folk of the Faraway Tree to Crevette and Beanie a couple of times a week. So far, they have really enjoyed it.
When I heard that Not On The High Street had created a free app to liven up storytelling, I thought we would give it a go. They have themes such as Space, Fairy Tales, Pirates, Lost World, Monsters and they have just launched a series of Halloween sounds. We focused our attention on the latter.
Initially, I wanted to use the sounds with one of the children’s Halloween stories, but annoyingly, I could not get my hands on them. Beanie (4 years 1 month) is bursting with imagination and she loves nothing more than making up stories on the spot. During the consultation I had with her pre-school teacher last week, she urged me to encourage my little girl’s creative side.
We tested the app in three different ways. First, the children used the pictures as prompts to make a story. The sounds also came in handy at Jumpy’s Halloween-themed party. Finally, the app livened up a story we were reading.
On Saturday, I let Crevette and Beanie become familiar with the app. They listened to all the sounds and they already had some favourites.
On Sunday night, we had quite a bit of time for our bedtimes stories. Jumpy was asleep and as I was giving Wriggly a bath and massage, Crevette and Beanie started making up their own Halloween story. After they got over the stage of giving all the characters their names and I advised them to try and create a story rather than a sentence per sound, they did rather well.
As Wriggly was feeding, I listened to their story. Beanie insisted on actions as well as sounds, which made the tale rather entertaining. So here it goes:
Once upon a time there was a hidden world inside the mountains in France. There was a skeleton called Bones. He lived in an old, creaky house. His best friends, who lived with him, were a ghost and a witch called Jojo and Emily. They were always bored so one day they left late at night and went through the big forest, across the river and past a swamp full of crocodiles. They ended up by the scary vampire’s house. There was a ladder leading to his bedroom window and they went up. They looked in and saw the vampire, asleep. Emily sneezed and woke the vampire up. The three friends got a bit of a shock. The vampire was very angry and pushed Jojo, Bones and Emily off the ladder and sent loads of bats after them. They bumped their heads and they ran away back to their home but they accidentally fell into a whirlpool on their way back. It went ‘bang’. “Oh no,” they shouted, “Help, help!” They kept swirling and swirling… They were OK in the end.
We gave up there as the story was getting slightly disjointed but to be fair, the little ones are only six and four!
Yesterday, we had a Halloween-themed party for my little girl’s second birthday, and we used the app by pressing sounds repeatedly for ‘pass the parcel’. Although the sounds were perfect for the purpose of the activity, seventeen children between the ages of two and six are a loud crowd and to say it was chaotic would be an understatement.
You can download the app as well as a short story here. The story is very sweet and the children enjoyed pressing the icons on the app as I was reading it. The only drawback in my eyes is that you have to have the story open on the computer to read it from. We only managed to print a short portion of it despite my best efforts. I am not too keen on storytime using two screens to be honest, but I am sure it will be made available to print soon.
We loved the app as it made storytelling fun and encouraged my children to try and devise their own story as a team. They had to agree on the storyline, negotiate what aspects would stay and what would have to go as I was typing it for them. They had to improve it as I reread it to them so that it had some direction and a bit of a storyline.
Most of all, Crevette read the edited story with pride and a sense of ownership whilst Beanie had to listen carefully and focus on her brother’s reading so she would not forget to press the correct sounds when she was supposed to. We will certainly be using the app again as its soundboards fit in with most of the types stories we read. It will work for storytelling in English as well as in French, which is a big bonus for me. The app is definitely staying on my iPad!