Child Stories: Going Beyond
Despite the explosion of the Internet and various new media, child stories are still what most people want – whether they are adults or children themselves.
Nonetheless, I wonder if we can’t learn something from the new media?
I think that the greatest lesson that the Internet and other new media have to teach us is that human beings love interactive media. Although we love to “veg” in front of the TV sometimes, we also love to get involved in whatever entertainment we view. This is why young people surf the Internet more than they watch TV and why the 30 second TV commercial is no longer as effective as a form of advertising.
But what does this mean for children’s stories? I’d like to suggest that we can now go beyond child stories that merely tell a story in an asynchronous (one-way) fashion. We can find ways to let kids (and parents) get actively involved.
Here are 7 ways you could turn your child story into a multi-media, interactive learning experience.
#1 Add some background material
Whether your story is about Mongolian nomads, extraterrestrials or even just a housecat, you can always include some factual material that would be interesting. You could write it as a factual narrative, or better yet, create a list of interesting facts about Mongolian nomads, extraterrestrial life or cats, as in “Did you know that…?”
Most people, and kids are no exception, love to challenge themselves with fun little quizzes. They’re also a great way to help kids remember things or internalize concepts. Just remember to make your quizzes fun, not like some of the boring quizzes we had in school.
#3 Discussion Questions
A few choice questions are always great. If kids have the chance to talk about the story in a moderately structured way, then they’ll spend the time to think about it more and they’ll remember it better. This, of course, is an excellent opportunity to use a story to communicate some moral or life lesson. That’s what I’ve done with the learning guides that accompany many of my stories.
Puzzles, coloring pages, etc. Kids love doing these. Aside from making them really fun, you could also subtly reinforce the moral or life lesson of your story.
Even many adults listen to stories or motivational tapes and CDs, so this is certainly something that could appeal to kids. Now, I don’t advocate always letting your kids listen to recordings while you do the dishes or catch-up on your email, but it would be OK once in a while, and you could also listen together (don’t you watch DVDs together?). An added benefit is that you might pick up some tips to improve the way you tell the story to your kids.
#6 Posters, Postcards
Kids love having pictures of their favorite characters. These don’t necessarily need to be giant wall posters. They could even be wallet-sized pictures, perhaps with some text. This could be another way to reinforce the main moral or message of your story.
You don’t have to make a full-blown board game (although you could). You could just make a simple card game a là Pokemon, Yugi-oh, etc. These all have come and gone, but they were very popular in their day.
The possibilities for further development are more or less infinite:
- You could create online or digital versions of any of the items mentioned here.
- You could create toys and dolls of your characters.
- You could turn your story into a virtual world.
If your child story becomes a best-seller, these are the kinds of commercial “add-ons” that companies create.
BUT, my point is not that you need to create more commercial add-ons. My point is this:
Old child story world:
- single media
- broadcast or asynchronous communication
- passive learning
New child story world:
- multiple media
- active learning
Your child story still needs to get the basics right, but assuming it does, why not make it even more effective – and entertaining – by offering something more?
© 2006 Paul Arinaga. All Rights Reserved.
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