ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF

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Amujae Leader Dr. Yakama Manty Jones discusses the importance of storytelling in early childhood development

Pay attention to the beginning of the story so that you can change the whole story,” Amujae Leader Dr. Yakama Manty Jones wrote in her recent article, “Storie— Storie—- In-Out— Once upon a time—–the number is 430,” which highlights the importance of storytelling in early childhood education. 

Emphasizing the critical role of environment in a child’s early development—namely “the people, their actions and words, the tools including toys and books; and most significantly, the stories” that surround them—Dr. Jones pointed out that influences in early childhood often shape individuals beyond their early years and well into adulthood. 

Focusing on early childhood development in Africa, Dr. Jones wrote that, while experts widely agree on the link between a child’s first 1,000 days and their holistic development, many sub-Saharan African countries are severely underfunded in the early childhood education space. She cited a 2012 UNICEF report that found, among 27 sub-Saharan African countries surveyed, only 0.01% of gross national product was spent on pre-primary education. According to Dr. Jones, this gravely impedes the development of a reading and learning culture among young children, which can in turn limit their creative and imaginative development. This can stand in the way of children being able to achieve their full potential. 

It also serves to highlight the value of the work non-profit organizations are doing to scale up investment in this important space. One of these organizations, the Yak Jones Foundation in Sierra Leone, which Dr. Jones founded in 2016, has already established sixteen Reading Squads across primary schools in Freetown’s Western Area. These Reading Squads currently work with 430 children—primarily girls—to improve their reading skills and develop “a culture of storytelling” through play.

Reiterating the vital role that storytelling plays in a child’s early development, Dr. Jones concluded by explaining that “we all have stories to tell that will inspire children, stimulate their brain development and transform lives.” She called for greater personal and collective responsibility for the role we all play in nurturing every child, and creating an environment in which they can thrive and reach their full potential.

Read the full article here.

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