Improving children’s social and emotional health by truly listening to their stories

Journal article

Barnes, J. 2020. Improving children’s social and emotional health by truly listening to their stories. Perspectives in Public Health. 140 (5), pp. 255 - 256.
AuthorsBarnes, J.

Speech Bubbles (SB) is a drama-based intervention designed to address the Speech, Language and Communication needs of six and seven year olds. It aims to hear and dramatize stories constructed by children and thereby build confidence, listening skills and improve oracy.

Six children aged 10 or 11 years part of a SB intervention in 2015, were chosen in 2019 to share their memories and feelings about the programme. Pairs of children were informally interviewed on video by a researcher. The recorded exchanges were transcribed and margin notes added on body language, facial expression and eye contact. This data was then analysed for themes, categories and properties and children’s own words used to capture their view of the personal benefits of this arts intervention.

Memories of the SB involvement five years before generated themes of Personal confidence, Storytelling, Listening, Participation, Relationships, Enjoyment, Play and Fluency emerged from analysis. Categories involved interactions with peers and adults, transferred skills or characteristics, progressive improvement and emotional impact. The properties of responses were positive, relaxed, detailed, empathic and articulate.

This report summarises children’s perceived outcomes of a SLC/Arts intervention experienced four or five years ago. Measured, verified and statistically significant improvements in confidence, storytelling, listening, relationships, participation and positivity have occurred, but SB’s role in generating these outcomes is unclear. But this small sample of children unequivocally believe that SB made all the difference to them. Founded upon their experience of SB, they constructed enduring personal stories that underpin their present identities. These stories open with shaky beginnings, introduce a varied cast of activity, fun, friendship, values and develop via the arts of story-making, story-sharing and the collective honouring of contributions. Each child’s personal narrative separately culminates in the discovery and development of a confident, contributing, socially and psychologically healthy self.

KeywordsDrama; Communication; Speech; Confidence in children; Narrative; Health; Socialisation
JournalPerspectives in Public Health
Journal citation140 (5), pp. 255 - 256
PublisherSAGE Journals
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Official URL
Publication dates
Print21 Sep 2020
Online15 Sep 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited14 Dec 2020
AcceptedJul 2020
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Output statusPublished
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Accepted author manuscript
RSPH article Feb 2020.pdf
License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
File access level: Open

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