|Thanks Wikipedia for this image!|
No doubt some of you are going on with the rest of the story of how a young "Will" had trouble on the east coast, was swooped up, and moved out to Bel Air in sunny California. What on earth has this got to do with children's literature, you ask?? Well, this week is National Storytelling Week! Of course, that is, if your nation is the UK. However, I am the Storytelling teacher at my school so I will be celebrating the 12th anniversary of National Storytelling Week. If you go to the Society for Storytelling
website you will read how this tradition started in 2000 as an attempt to promote one of the oldest art forms, storytelling.
A good story, short or long, real or made up, will stick in the minds of anyone who hears it. Whether it is put to music, performed, or shared around the dinner table, it will rattle around in your brain bringing you something to think about later. That is why some of you know Will Smith's story. I'm sure if I asked some people what they were doing on September 11, 2011, they would have a story to tell. Maybe you will even have something to share if I were to ask about your first kiss, or a time you had your heart broken.
|My grandparents, before|
the world had color. The story of
their courtship for two years
while he was in WWII is one
of my favorites.
I'm lucky enough to say that I come from a family of storytellers. No, we are not a traveling band of gypsies who make money off of spinning a tale, or even performers at one of the many storytelling festivals. But we can tell one heck of a story! When my siblings and I were little we used to beg
our mother to tell us one of her "Uncle Steve" stories. He, like many tricksters in traditional folktales, taught us the consequences of being a bit of a dare devil. Every year, on our birthdays, our mom calls us and tells us our "Being Born" story. It always starts the same, "It was a day, just like today..." and then goes off into the very day we were born. Of course, at this point in my life, I have discovered that my "Being Born" story overlaps with some of my other siblings' stories. The ability to add and take away is one of the best parts of storytelling and my mother has it down! And then, there is one of our family favorites. One year, my darling sister asked my mom why all the old pictures were in black and white. My mother, not missing a beat, went headfirst into a story about how the whole world used to be black and white and she even added enough details to describe the day the world first turned to color. My poor sister. It wasn't her fault she was born into a family of tale-spinners.
I continue our family tradition in my own way now. As an undergrad in college I had the privilege of studying with Rosemary Vohs, who taught two storytelling classes, at Western Washington University. We learned the history of storytelling, or as much as we could, we told stories, and heard stories, we even competed in storytelling competitions! I also got to know Swil Kanim, a Native American violinist, actor, and storyteller extraordinaire. He showed me how personal stories can bring people together. Now I pass on their knowledge, just as many storytellers have done throughout history, to others. I teach a quarter long course at my school and it is by far my favorite part of my job! For 8 glorious weeks we spin tales, play storytelling games, change our personalities and voices, and put on one heck of a show. And then at the end of 8 weeks, I get a whole new group of kids who are raring to go.
|One of my students tells|
her version of "The Gigantic Turnip."
As I read about all the new-fangled E-readers and their threat to the printed word, I can't help but think about storytellers from long ago. (Maurice Sendak gives his opinion on E-books at around 6:48 in this video.)
I wonder how they felt when their art form, the ever evolving story, changed into something permanent. I can imagine them wondering why anyone would write a story down...how would you change it every time you tell it!?
This week, I will be celebrating National Storytelling Week, but it won't be too difficult for me. If YOU would like to celebrate, I suggest you turn off your TVs (or whatever new-fangled device you hold...books included!) and tell someone a story. Or maybe ask someone to tell you a story. (I highly recommend little kids and grandparents!) Make it up, change one around, or keep it simple. And now, to help you get started....
Once upon a time...
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