The Lost Art of Storytelling

Once upon a time, there was a group of two year old children. They were tired and they missed their families. They just wanted to go home. You see, they had spent the whole day exploring, creating, and learning all sorts of new things. By the end of the day, they had had enough! They didn’t want to sing, they didn’t want to dance, they didn’t want Do anything else. They just wanted their Mommies and Daddies to come get them!

Down came the Fairy God-teacher… she started weaving tales of mystery and adventure. Soon, all the children were gathered around her, engaged in the tales she had to tell. They were mesmerized by the changes in her voice and her amazing sound effects. As the tales went on, more and more children were picked up by their parents. Instead of going home crabby, all the children went home with smiles on their faces. And they all lived happily ever after! The End

Real Life
I bet once you saw the words “Once Upon a Time,” you were roped in… at least a little. We all are! Those words are like magic! The story above is true. OK, there wasn’t a Fairy God-teacher, there was just me (though, there are times, I wish such a person existed). It was yesterday. I had a group of children who just wanted to be done with their day. I tried putting on music, they didn’t want to dance. When music doesn’t work, a sense of panic can set in, because that is usually the magic trick! I knew a book wouldn’t work, so I began telling a story. It was a simple story, one I had known since I was a little girl. It involved a cottage in the woods, 3 Bears, and a little girl. I bet right now, you know exactly which story I am talking about!

Sadly, many children these days don’t know the stories we all grew up with. They’ve never heard of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears, or the story of the 3 Little Pigs. They don’t know nursery rhymes, or fairy tales. These stories are important for children. They promote imagination and vocabulary. There’s a lesson to be learned in many of them. Nursery rhymes help children learn rhyming words, rhythm, and other important literacy skills.

When my daughter was a toddler, I struggled to even find a book of nursery rhymes and fairy tales. Eventually, I did find one, and it quickly became her favorite book! Children love to hear these stories!

Tall Tales
My (now ex) brother-in-law was an amazing storyteller! He could make up stories that would have my daughter and her cousin mesmerized for quite a long time. It didn’t really matter what the story was that he was telling, they would sit, in total awe, listening to him! Some people have that gift. I do not. I do however, have a lot of stories from my childhood (or those I have read a million or so times as a teacher) memorized. Simple things like changing a voice, raising or lowering my volume, and involving children in the story (for example, to help “blow the house down”) all pull children right in.

The other day, a little boy on the playground, asked me to tell him a story with the Big Bad Wolf. He has been asking me to do this every time he sees me, for about the past year. I started with the story of the 3 Little Pigs. Within minutes, I had about 10 children around me, listening and participating in the story. I felt a little like the Fairy God-Teacher!! Those moments are just as magical for me, as for them! Last night, I attempted the story of Snow White. I need to practice a bit with that one! The part that got them the most excited, was when the Dwarves started singing “Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s off to work we go…” If a story isn’t going as well as you hoped, just bust into a song. It’s so unexpected, it will pull them right back in!

My point, is not that you need to be a fabulous story-teller. It is simply this: children want to hear stories. You can tell them, read to them, or even put in a CD with a story on it and give them the book to “follow along.” You will be doing them a favor as they are preparing to go to school and to read!

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