Firefighters, as we know, put out fires. They see the problem, and know how to help. They have trained for emergencies, learned about chemical reactions, practiced containing forest fires, studied protocols for decision making and for working together. They have done a lot of study and research to do their job well.
It strikes me, though, that even though firefighters are extremely knowledgeable and are skilled at applying their knowledge, their experiential stories are extremely important. No two fires are exactly the same. Their emergency responses are determined by the unique circumstances of people, wind, temperature, proximity to explosives and so much more. Their oral stories are significant to their learning and insights. Their stories help make sense of events and communicates sequential and emotional perspectives that are invaluable to themselves as well as to colleagues, families, friends and those they are trying to help.
With this analogy, I am suggesting that research and data, while very important, do not tell us everything we need to know. With respect to children’s literacy leaning, I share the view of authors, historians, Elders and Knowledge Keepers around the globe that oral language is the bedrock of literate societies.
How can oral language that is only heard be considered literacy?
Oral stories offer listeners an experiential understanding of fundamental components of literacy. These narrative skills include:
When listeners begin to tell their own stories, they experiment with and refine how to use these components of literacy.
Without early and frequent oral story experiences, children would be struggle to create and read written stories with meaning and purpose.
Let’s think more deeply about the oral stories children hear and tell….
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