Storytelling as a way to give voice to kids in underprivileged areas

5:37 min

Teachers working in underprivileged areas in Sweden stress the importance of encouraging children to make their voices heard.

150 teachers working in underprivileged areas gathered in Stockholm this autumn to stock up on inspiration and ideas for how they can improve the work with their pupils' reading and writing, and not the least their storytelling. All participants seem to agree that this is particularly important for the pupils in their areas.

"It is important to be able to express yourself, to be able to communicate and if you don't have a language it is hard for you to do that. We have a saying that 'language is power' and it is. To be able to talk or to write and express yourself, is to be able to influence others," said Anna, who teaches 13-15 year-olds at a school in southern Stockholm.

"They too must have the language, to be equal citizens so they feel they are members of the Swedish society. It is not good if they feel that they are underclass," said Ulla Sporrner who teaches years 1-3 at a school in north-western Stockholm.

"I think that a lot of children really think, but they don't have the words, and they don't have the power how to act, 'how do I get anyone to listen to me? I have a lot of thoughts, but I don't have the words for what I want to say'," said Barbro Westlund, teacher educator at Stockholm university, and a researcher in reading comprehension.

The conference was organised by Berättarministeriet - loosely translated as the Storytelling Ministry - which is a non-profit organisation that over the last few years has been running writing centres in underprivileged areas in Stockholm and Södertälje.

They run after-school clubs and holiday camps, but are also more directly involved in the school work, offering workshops to school classes, and generally supporting the teachers. Over the past 3 years, the organisation has worked with more than 900 teachers, and they hope to expand their work also to other parts of Sweden.

Berättarministeriet was initiated by Dilsa Demirbag-Sten, who herself came to Sweden as a refugee at the age of six. Today, she is an author and a columnist, as well as the head of the Storytelling Ministry.