Why Stepping Stories™ Work with Young Children
Children’s stories are deeply embedded in Western culture. Studies show that if kids can identify with “iconic” pictures, they increase their comprehension and are able to replicate the action of the story. As a result, Stepping Stories™ are effective tools for teaching novel concepts in early childhood.
The Personalized Egocentric Phase
Personalized stories work because young children are in a developmental phase where their capacity to project themselves into a fictional character is emerging. This egocentric phase means they can see only their own perspective. This is why children under three and half will often play hide and seek by hiding in plain sight and covering their own eyes. According to Jean Piaget, during this egocentrism phase,“The child… has not yet discovered the multiplicity of possible perspectives and remains blind to all but his own as if that were the only one possible.”
During this phase, children relish reading stories in which they appear as the main character. A Stepping Story will describe a change a child’s life in a realistic, recognizable, and personalized way, allowing the child to anticipate and prepare for the transition. The child can also project him or herself into the story more easily than if the story were generalized or abstracted around a fictional character.
Repetition for Mastery and Self-Confidence
Young children learn best through repetition and are hard wired to request and enjoy it. Studies show improvements in comprehension, novel word acquisition and ability to repeat actions after multiple exposure to the same stories. Children play in repetitive ways as they develop confidence and a sense of mastery.
Studies have examined how repeated exposure to stories is correlated with improved ability to perform a multiple step task and heightened performance on comprehension questions. Children as young as one year learn novel words from repeated exposure to picture books.
How External Story Books Become Internalized: The Inner Script
Children internalize external messages that are delivered through stories. The simple structure, personalized pictures and repeated delivery of Stepping Stories™ help outside messages move inside. Once the message of the book becomes the child’s inner script, it allows the child to face change armed with a coping strategy and increased confidence.
Horst, J., Parsons, K., and Bryna, N. (2011). Get the Story Straight: Contextual Repetition Promotes Word Learning form Storybooks.in Front Psychol. 2011; 2: 17. Kesselring, T., & Müller, U. (2011). The concept of egocentrism in the context of Piaget’s theory. in New Ideas in Psychology, 29(3), 327-345.
Piaget, 1926/1929, p. 167 in Kesselring, T., & Müller, U. (2011). The concept of egocentrism in the context of Piaget’s theory. in New Ideas in Psychology, 29(3), 327-345
Crawley et al., 1999, for a similar effect, see Mares, 2006
Social emotional development is an emerging area of focus amongst educators, parents and therapists. The term describes a child’s emerging abilities to recognize, express and regulate his or her emotions. Social emotional development describes the set of skills and abilities that allow a child to form meaningful and reciprocal relationships. These skills have been shown to significantly impact a child’s ability to develop and succeed in the cognitive and academic realms.
“Infants experience, express, and perceive emotions before they fully understand them,” explains the California Department of Education. “In learning to recognize, label, manage, and communicate their emotions and to perceive and attempt to understand the emotions of others, children build skills that connect them with family, peers, teachers, and the community.”
Stepping Stories™ are designed to foster social emotional development in young children. Each story targets a specific step in a child’s development and helps him or her develop impulse control, empathy, self awareness, and confidence in the face of change or challenge.
Empathy & Relationship
Each Stepping Story™ nurtures a child’s social emotional development by helping the child cope with unfamiliar or challenging events. Because Stepping Stories™ are read to children by parents and caregivers, the relationship component is inherent. The stories use specific, emotion-based language to articulate the child and caregiver’s feelings as they face change and visualize success. The child, as the both the hero and the audience of the story, reinforces and strengthens his or her connection and attachment to the parent or caregiver.
“Early experiences can build a strong foundation or a fragile one, and can affect the way children react and respond to the world around them for the rest of their lives,” explains the Boston Children’s Foundation. At Stepping Stories™, we recognize the important of these early experience and are committed to delivering a tool that helps parents set a solid foundation for social emotional development and growth.
Breaking large or difficult tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks is one of the best things that a parent can do to foster self confidence in a child. If a child perceives a task as too difficult, he will likely avoid it altogether. According to Zero to Three, “When you help your child break down these challenging tasks into smaller steps, he is much more likely to feel confident that he can tackle them. You are also teaching your child how to use this strategy to accomplish the many big tasks he will face as he grows.”
Each Stepping Story™ uses this simple method of breaking down a larger event or situation into a series of simple, easy steps. As we remind parents in every book, modeling self confidence is critical to helping your child develop it. “When you go with your child into a new situation or to meet a new person,” explains Zero to Three, “if you look calm, confident and happy, it lets him know this is safe, good place or person and he is more likely to feel safe and confident as well.”
For example, in our story about Food Allergies, we break what might be a complex and intimidating task into simple components. The story helps the child develop awareness of how his body might react if he eats an allergen and outlines who to tell and what to say if that does happen. At the end, we provide a prompt for the child to practice saying the words he might need if he experiences an allergic reaction.
Each Stepping Story™ ends by affirming the child’s growing capabilities and articulates feelings of pride and love between the parent and child as he gains new skills. In conjunction with repeated reading, these positive outcomes set the stage for the child’s growing self-confidence as he approaches his next developmental step.