Perhaps we recognise ourselves or others in some of them. Perhaps we have similar problems.
Because of this natural empathy with the characters, our brains process the reading of stories differently from the way we read factual information. Our brains don't always recognise the difference between an imagined situation and a real one so the characters become 'alive' to us. What they say and do is therefore more meaningful.
This is why the words and structures that relate a story's events, descriptions and conversations are processed in this deeper way. In fact, cultures all around the world have always used storytelling to pass knowledge from one generation to another.
Our ancestors understood very well that this was the best way to make sure our histories and information about how to relate to others and to our world was not only understood, but remembered too. Encouraging your child to read or listen to stories should therefore help them to learn a second language in a way that is not only fun, but memorable. Let's take a quick look at learning vocabulary within a factual text or within a story. Imagine the readers are eight-year-olds interested in animals. In your opinion, are they more likely to remember AND want to continue reading the first or second text?
Many birds and animals live in the world, for example, parrots, pandas, lions, leopards and rabbits. In the sea we can find whales, dolphins, sharks and octopuses. My younger brother is called Fred. Fred's very interested in animals.
He talks and asks questions about animals ALL the time! Fred's really interested in parrots and pandas and lions and leopards and rabbits. But Fred's favourite animals live in the sea.
He has pictures of whales, dolphins, sharks and octopuses on all the walls of his bedroom. From: Do whales have stomach aches? Storyfun for Movers, Cambridge University Press, For your child to gain the maximum benefit and language learning from reading stories, consider the story's language level carefully, too. Is the grammar and vocabulary not too easy but still accessible to the reader?
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Would the language be similar to that which your child might use in their first language? Would it support school work and help prepare for tests? Useful EFL publications such as Storyfun for Starters, Movers and Flyers and other graded readers are carefully written with these important considerations in mind. But, of course, stories don't only offer the young reader a chance to read.
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