Each Tuesday I tell stories to a class of 2 and 3 year olds. We had our first class this week and as always, I was amazed to see the powerful effect myths and stories have on young listeners.
When I stepped into the classroom on Tuesday morning, one little boy was crying for his mommy. Having seen this sort of thing many times before, I knew it was best to get started right away, before they all started crying. I began telling the fable of the Lion and the Mouse. After establishing the jungle scene, the weeper stopped crying and started listening.
When I finished the fable, a bright-eyed little 3-year-old girl said, “Do that again! Start from the beginning!” She wasn’t sure what is was that I had done, but she wanted more.
Next, I told the first labour of Hercules, and the little boy who’d been crying, shouted, “More,” with gusto!
By the end of the 30 minute period, they were all sitting silently, fully engaged in listening to stories from long ago and far away, like old hands.
Last week, school started in our part of the world and I was asked by a principal to help kick off the new school year with a storytelling assembly.
At the beginning of the presentation, I invited the gym full of students to join me on the Storyteller’s Journey, to discover their own voice and learn to tell their own story. Throughout the hour, many eager children helped me dramatize ancient world myths and even on the first day of school 200 children sat attentively engaged in the mysterious narratives of long ago and far away.
After the assembly, I suggested that they practice their new skills by re-telling one of the stories at home. I asked which story they might like to tell and several children raised their hands and answered my question.
Ten minutes or so later, as I walked from the gym to the exit passing various lines of students snaking their way down the hallway in search of their classrooms, a willowy 6 year old boy spotted me, stepped out of line and said, as if continuing an interrupted conversation, “It is hard for me to decide which story to tell because I liked them all! I might not actually get the chance to tell one because I’ve got to get the hay in before winter, but I’ll try.” The principal had mentioned that the school was located in a strong farming community. With that, the young farmer and newly christened storyteller, waved good-bye and set off in search of his long gone classmates.