Why Stories?Discussing difference and how we deal with difference isn’t exactly easy – right? This isn’t just about having a chat about difference on an intellectual level. This kind of discussion will inevitably unearth some emotional issues and the last thing we want is to leave our children feeling exposed, named and shamed. The playground is a tough place – we all still bear the scars of jibes that were levelled at us when we were very young and learning how to be. The aim is not to draw attention to difference in a way that will arm those playground fiends with more ammunition – the aim is rather to teach our children to better understand and celebrate themselves and their differences and learn how to stand up for themselves and others and so quiet those playground fiends – in the playground and in our children’s minds.
We believe that the way to have these sensitive discussions is through story. We believe that stories allow teachers and parents to raise these sensitive issues and engage children in discussion around these issues without children feeling so exposed, and perhaps vulnerable, or even ashamed.
We have used stories in three ways:
- The first type of story we would describe as “an issue story”. These stories raise some sensitive issues for discussion and exploration. These stories are intended for use in an academic way and on an intellectual level and are aimed at stimulating discussion around the fact that people could be of a different nationality, language, religion, colour, gender, age, etc. to that of our own. These stories, and the activities that accompany them, are intended to allow children to simply think about the commonality and differences they have as human beings, why some people may be different to them, what those differences might be, and whether the differences are of any significance at all.
- The second type of story we would describe as “a real story”. These stories are about individuals who have managed to make their mark on history by overcoming adversity, standing up to prejudice of whatever kind or somehow highlighting the plight of a people or group – these are real life heroes with whom children can identify.
- The third type of story we would describe as “a metaphoric story”. These stories use image and metaphor to help children to identify and empathise with characters or situations and so get in touch with their own feelings about an issue. With these stories we aim to provide an avenue for children to explore their own feelings about being different (such as feeling lonely, feeling left out or bullied), and engage with these feelings without the child feeling exposed.