Stories and storytelling have long captivated the minds and hearts of children everywhere – the most famed among being bedtime stories. One of the earliest forms of storytelling known to man is what today is known as oral literature.
Passed on from generation to generation, these ‘words’ woven in sometimes the simplest of plots have reverberated through history and in people’s memories for centuries.
Africa is well known for its rich, albeit largely unexplored, literal history. The glimmers of which we have caught over recent years in some of its celebrated authors – past and present.
With the passing of time however, the manner in which stories are being presented and preserved is changing. And although the storytelling of today looks somewhat different from the way it did before, the essence and purposes of the craft still remain.
Once it was the village elder under the cool shade of the old baobab tree or under the full moon at the village square, or around the common fire; then the teacher reading from the pages of a book or newspaper; and now on tablets and computers as e-books and animated audio-visual books.
Whatever the case, the essence of storytelling remains one of creativity, wonder and imagination filled with adventure, learning and passing on of knowledge, and communicating precious memories.
There are several benefits to children that can be attributed to reading and listening to stories. One being better sleep: statistics from sleep therapists show that bedtime storytelling can help children experience higher quality sleep. After long hours of sensory stimulation from daytime activities, establishing a routine around activities such as story time can help create a calmer and more restful environment for the little ones.
Additionally, reading stories to children helps sharpen their memories, improve their reading skills, and school grades, and promote social and emotional skills, according to Lunar Odawa, a psychologist based in Kenya who works with children.
With the rising rate of consumption of social media content and digital media, oral bedtime stories have the potential to provide Africa’s next generation with a break from their screens and with the much-needed opportunity to enjoy their culture and explore the world outside the ‘box’ of screens.
Parents and parental figures were often seen to be at the centre of this noble undertaking – many people in Africa growing up hearing bedtime stories from parents and grandparents, and bedtime was, perhaps, the best part of the day.
However, today one out of every three parents in Africa feel that they do not spend enough time reading bedtime stories to their children.
The “Give a Generous Voice to Story” campaign by Mondelez, the company behind Cadbury drinking chocolate, seeks to help these parents and guardians to connect to their charges by providing a platform that allows them to be present despite time and physical distance challenges.
The “Give a Generous Voice to Story” campaign is calling on people to lend their voice to record a collection of 85 African themed children’s books steeped in African folklore, history and vibrant characters – with a hope of fostering the joy and culture of bedtime storytelling.
These audio books provide children with the cherished opportunity to enjoy the oral storytelling traditions of their ancestors, while taking some of the pressure off hard-pressed parents.
To listen to books recorded, visit the Cadbury Library https://www.cadbury.africa/ourownwords/, select a book, and enjoy!