I lead a lot of storytelling workshops in the course of a year. Mostly for teachers, through the Kennedy Center or early childhood trainings or district in-services. I have a constant refrain in these workshops – storytelling is a powerful and accessible tool for teachers. It has huge implications for classroom engagement and environment, it is a foundation of literacy, and it helps to add to kids’ cultural, psychological, and spiritual development. There are other reasons, too, but at bottom I believe that every child should just hear a boatload of stories by the time they are teenagers. They should hear folktales, myths, personal stories, ghost stories, family stories, and more, from a variety of cultures.
Storytelling is a live art form.I’ve seen the power over and over again, for more than thirty years of doing this work, of the deep, imaginative, and soulful engagement that hearing a story in a room with others creates. It changes radically when presented on recordings or videos, although there is still some advantage to hearing them that way, particularly as audio, where the imagination gets activated.
This blog is occasioned by the Story Story! podcast, to which I’ve been a subscriber for over a year. One of the stories from my Loathsome Lady CD is being featured in the current edition, but I would encourage anyone interested in hearing stories to check out the whole series that’s available. Rachel Ann Harding puts out the podcast as a labor of true love for stories. She chose my story of Orpheus in an episode called “Against the Odds.” It’s an episode about love, loss, challenge, and more.
An additional idea about stories. I discussed this recently with Jim May, an old friend and fantastic teller from Illinois. He liked the idea, but it’s always the implementation, isn’t it?
There should be a an army of trained storytellers who can go regularly to schools to tell in classrooms. Volunteers, mostly retired folks or others. A couple training sessions and they’d be ready. Have resources to learn stories. An easy and powerful way to connect with kids, to stay engaged, to feel the love that stories engender, and to have fun. The benefits would be enormous. I call this Story Squads, although there might be a better name. Schools can’t afford to bring in professional storytellers that often, and there aren’t enough of us, anyway. Let there be sowers of story, spreading seeds wildly in the imagination of kids.
Incidentally, I just finished Jim May’s new book, “Trail Guide for a Crooked Heart.” It’s a wonderful set of stories, thoughts, and reflections on a life filled story, and well worth a read.
I bless the day I first told a story to kids. It was inadvertent and life changing. And the experience is within reach of anyone who is interested and who has the courage to close the book, face the audience, and begin.