What’s YOUR Story?

Our first feature this week is written by John at Apps for Kids. Moms With Apps has posted articles in the past about the creativity crisis and the importance of play. In this article, John discusses how his Build A Story app fosters the creative process of storytelling by letting the child tell their own tales – yet another example of how apps can be so much more than a spectator sport.

I distinctly remember the first multiple-page story I ever wrote.  I was in 1st grade, and Mrs Powell told us that instead of her reading us a book that day, she wanted us to tell the story — about anything we wanted. 

“Anything at all that you can imagine,” she said.  “Really bring it to life!” I still remember her exact words. 

And that’s when I first realised the power – and fun – of the experience of storytelling.

I was free to create, out of thin air, any tale I chose to, any scenario or character I could dream of, any world at all that I could imagine coming to life.

Until then, I had looked at picture books.  Turned pages and read stories and had stories read to me … but now, it was my turn to say what was going to happen.

I still remember what I wrote in that first story: It was set on the playground of the school.  The Slide and the Seesaw were talking (talking!) about which of the two Swings on the Swingset could fly higher; and later, a friendly playground competition ensued.

A budding J.K. Rowling? No way.

But now, with two school-age children of my own, I can actually see the enjoyment and sheer fun they experience as they think about and consider the infinite possibilities available to them. Now, they’re bringing their new worlds to life.

The Power of Telling Stories

Obviously, there is nothing in the world like reading a good book (and I include some e- and interactive books in that as well). But, the fact remains that books and stories are still the creations of others.  Wonderful, magical creations to be certain, but others’ creations nonetheless.  

As a child (and as an adult), my love of books was and is boundless. They are among my most prized possessions, and I still have many of my childhood books that my kids now read. 

But the fact remains, while I “own” these books … they “belong” to others.  As much as I love them, there is nothing like learning to tell a great story of your own.

That’s why we created Build A Storyfor iPad. We wanted to give children (and parents) some of the themes and characters to develop their own tales and stories – but only so they can create and write the real action that can then take place.

Writing stories is such a fundamental way for a child to express their view of how the world does – or could – work.  From playing with the the laws of physics, to exploring (and expressing) how the child relates to other humans, the essential ingredient in storytelling is imaginative play.

Creating vs. Consuming

‘Imagining’ and ‘play’ and ‘create’ — as opposed to ‘consume’ — are the key differences we have tried to build into our app.

A recent New York Times article gets to this point when the journalist chronicled the movement to restore children’s play. In that article (http://nyti.ms/fUofha), the general consensus of experts seems to be that ‘video games’ don’t count as truly beneficial play — but they do make an exception for “those that involve creating something.”

We want kids to be able to explore their own imaginations, and give them a simple way to communicate their thoughts and dreams, rather than simply taking in the dreams and imaginations of others.

Pretty pictures are nice – but its all about the story

In developing our app, we wanted to do something others haven’t yet done in a significant way.  We wanted kids to be able make storybooks, not just picture pages.  Whether they’re young, and dictating the written part of the story to Mom or Dad to type in… or older kids proficient enough on a keyboard to spell out what’s happening, it’s the writing and language aspect that matters to us, and to other parents we know and talk to.

To us, the narrative element and its obvious connection to language development is the real benefit – the conflicts and resolutions and innermost thoughts that no character, no matter how well drawn, is able to completely communicate on its own.

So we worked long and hard on the ‘Story Box’ feature of our app that captures the writing, and the Dialog bubbles that allow characters to speak their minds.

We also strongly believe that one page is not enough. So we took extra time to allow for multiple-page story editing and saving.  In the end, the child has a storybook to show and tell, one they can save and share no matter how many pages it takes them to tell their tale.

We believe that kids love to create. To imagine. To develop their own worlds and use all the new technology to dream up outlandish, or funny, or emotional, or simply fun situations and scenarios.

That’s our story… what’s yours?

4 Replies to “What’s YOUR Story?”

  1. I was always a storyteller by nature and I feel so lucky that my teachers encouraged me when I would get nervous in front of bigger groups. Then in college I had a great professor tell me I was a great storyteller followed with: “Now let’s make you a great writer.” He was instrumental in fostering respect for the written word and the power of language. Sentence structure is so important and can be learned which I took the time to do …but I feel so lucky that my parents encouraged us as kids to play outside and welcomed the games we came up with (even if things got messy), I grew up with animals, trees, and a diverse community which we all still have access to …so don’t fear the local bus it is amazing what is just outside your door.

    Loved this article, thank you!

  2. I haven’t had the pleasure of reviewing this storytelling app, but I love this article. Storying is how we make sense of the world around us and our unique place in it.

    This app gives the child complete autonomy over the creative experience. Being given raw ingredients to create with is always the most powerful form of learning we can enjoy.

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