Guest Post: Vikki Connelly on Sensory Storytelling

We’ve caught up with CBCA notable author Vikki Conley to hear what she’s been up to in the storytelling space.

What’s something great that you’re doing right now?

As part of a Stonnington Shire arts grant, I’m working alongside the fabulous team at Vision Australia’s Feelix Library. This library is the best. It has shelves and shelves of tactile storykits that have incredibly cute handmade touch and feel storybooks that pair with all of our much-loved picture books.

Sarah and Victoria at Feelix know so much about sensory storytelling and they regularly host events for children who have low vision, are blind and are often neuro-divergent. We all got a little excited about sharing our experiences around sensory and dynamic storytelling, so we decided to host a professional development session to share our passion and skills.

Why is this sort of storytelling so vital?

There’s a greater need than ever to include this type of experience in schools, kindergartens, libraries, daycares, hospitals and even homes. We’re only just scratching the surface on understanding all the diverse ways that children’s brains and bodies learn.

Immersive sensory experiences offer children the opportunity to access the arts (story/pictures/movement/art/music) in ways that suit their unique, diverse or complex learning needs.
Sensory storytimes are an enriching experience for storytellers and children, allowing a holistic and inclusive approach to literacy, which supports the unique needs of children.

What does sensory storytelling ‘look like’?
The exciting thing is that it can come in so many different forms. I love using puppets, sounds (lots of onomatopoeias in my stories) and movement. They are two big draw cards for little hands, bodies and minds. Bringing nature into classrooms is also a wonderful sensory way to lift stories off the page, through craft and creative activities. I love nothing more than inviting children to help tell my stories.

Touch and feel tubs filled with things that feel and smell like the setting of your story are wonderful things for young learners. Tactile and grounding materials like clay, play-doh and airdry clay can also be easily adapted for activities, allowing children to express what they have heard, seen or felt after experiencing the story.

Music can reduce irritability, pain or anxiety and it is just beautiful to help create a magical setting for your story. I’ve been lucky enough to have a piano accompaniment to my Little Puggle’s Song by an amazing music therapist from Very Special Kids. These sessions had children sitting in complete awe. I’ve also been playing Australian bush birdsong (just from Spotify) to intro some of my Little Puggle Song storytimes.

Sensory storytimes are an enriching experience for storytellers and children, allowing a holistic and inclusive approach to literacy, which supports the unique needs of children, particularly those who are neuro-divergent, blind or have low vision.

Why are you so interested as an author to be involved?
My background has roots in drama, the arts and I worked alongside some of the world’s poorest people during my decade working for World Vision. It just seems like a natural extension to make my stories interactive, creative and inclusive experiences.

Also, when I see my own children and so many in classrooms, who learn and thrive (and struggle) in such diverse ways – it feels like there has to be more than one way to experience a story. And let’s face it, basically it’s just making the story a whole lot more fun!

Join Vikki and @VisionAustralia for a professional development session focused on sensory storytelling, designed for teachers, librarians and teacher librarians. Learn to engage with children in a dynamic way, develop your practical storytelling skills and create tactile resources for your own sessions. Vision Australia and Vikki are running a sensory storytelling professional development session on Thursday 27 May. Registrations are now open, to book online.

Read our KBR review of Vikki’s latest gorgeous picture book, The Lost Moustache.

May 17, 2021 at 12:32PM DimbutNice