Development of stories and implementation of storytelling for preschoolers to promote their literacy: a social-engagement approach

Development of stories and implementation of storytelling for preschoolers to promote their literacy: a social-engagement approach

          SYNOPSIS: Storytelling is known as one of the most common tools to develop a child’s literacy in all cultures, which is commonly practiced both in family and at school.  This one-year project aims to promote children’s literacy in Thai with an introduction of English words through storytelling activities. Serving its purpose to integrate academic work with social engagement, the project is conducted in three main phases partly due to the need of adjustment forced by COVID-19 pandemic situation and school closure. 

          In Phase 1, eight stories were composed based on the standard curriculum used at a nursery school (Chumchon Mai Community Child Care Center, Thasala District, Nakhon Si Thammarat).  A research study was originally planned to implement storytelling activities with the preschoolers at the Center, with puppets as learning aids. However, following the outbreak of the coronavirus in late 2019 and the government’s policy to curb the pandemic, schools were cancelled throughout the country. That resulted in the need to adjust the research plan being conducted as part of an English program’s course EFL-401 Senior Project in Term 3/2019 at Walailak University. 

         The adjustment affected the group of participants; the nursery school setting was shifted to the home setting where preschoolers could be engaged in the storytelling activity. Young children of 3-5 year-old and their parents living in a small neighbourhood of Muang district, province of Suratthani, in the south of Thailand attended the study during the restriction imposed to curb the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic under the “Stay at Home” measures (March-April 2020). 

         The study consisted of four stages: pre-test, storytelling, post-test, and interview. The storytelling material included 5 selected stories (from the 8 stories), written in Thai (average length of 423 words). Each story contained three English words, making up 15 English words to learn. Analyses were conducted on the pre- and post-test scores, observation of children’s learning, and parents’ reflection. The preschoolers showed vocabulary development from story-listening. On average, children obtained 12.2 scores (from 15) in the post-test versus 8 in the pre-test. The family’s average satisfaction level of the material and learning process was high (3.77 from 4.00), as they assessed children’s learning behaviour and English word development. An academic article was submitted to the South African Journal of Children Education.

          In Phase 2, the stories were adjusted according to parents’ feedback from Phase 1. The students in course EFL60-212 Persuasive English, were recruited to write stories with more entertainment elements. A total of 7 stories were composed in Thai and translated into English, and illustrations were made for the e-book project. 

          In Phase 3, another study was conducted by three students in EFL60-411 Introduction to Research Methodology course. The five stories were told to the preschoolers at the Center as the measures had been lifted and schools had resumed during Term 1/2020. When storytelling was integrated with other classroom activities and games, the young children were highly engaged. While learning the English words used in the stories, the children also enjoy colouring the pictures.    

          Storytelling has been proved an interesting activity for children both at home and at school. The insertion of English words also promotes English vocabulary learning at the early age. No more than 3 words should be introduced in one story. The word should be mono-syllabic nouns. Repetition of at least 3 times is necessary. 

         The project maintains that strong collaboration between the Center of Academic Service and the English program, School of Liberal Arts is crucially needed for the success of social engagement program.