Storyteller Richard O’Neil presented a workshop for delegates at the UCD 12th Early Years Conference Inspiring Children’s Imagination. Richard O’Neill is a sixth generation master storyteller and author from the Romany tradition. Richard provided a rich insight into the power of stories for the development of children’s emotional, social and cognitive development. His all original stories, books and plays are inclusive, inspiring, funny, traditional and contemporary, with strong themes of inclusion, identity, community and ecology.

Richard believes that storytelling is for everyone so he has stories and workshops for every age and he particularly loves working with EAL and SEN pupils. His latest book ‘Yokki and the Parno Gry’ has been called ‘A perfect reminder about the power of imagination’ by the Sunday Times.

A key message from this workshop was that children need to be able to relate to the story they are being told; the language, the setting and the characters must be meaningful to them. This makes the stories accessible to the children; storytelling needs to reflect the audience. Storytelling which models real life ensures that children are not left confused. Richard suggests you start with the ordinary and then the extraordinary. There should be good levels of description and use of colour. Ensure listeners understand what you are describing. Props can be made that match the story. He introduced the delegates to his tree buddies made from wood or Pringle tubes.

The narrator must have enjoyment in the story before reading it to children. The belief that story with actions, gestures, voices and energy can have a powerful impact on children’s learning and ignite their imagination is a clear message. It is not about being theatrical in our approach it is about showing our enjoyment in story and sharing this in an enthusiastic way with children, developing their love of stories. The powerful message to consider is that everyone is a natural storyteller.

Richard O’Neill – Storyteller