Thursday, January 24, 2008

Storytelling

Well, since I am still living in the Land of Books over here, guess what this post is going to be about? Are you sick of this yet? Sorry, I can't hear you. So, I'm sure you said, "No, Jen, please tell us more about books!" Well, okay, since you asked so nicely. Actually, since I've been reading so many books lately, I've been thinking about the art of storytelling. You know how some people can tell a story, and you have to keep your eyelids pried open with toothpicks, while another person can tell the exact same story, and you laugh so hard you have to squeeze your legs tightly together and sit down quickly so you don't pee?

When I was in grad school training to get my degree in Elementary Education, I was videotaped teaching a group of second graders an art lesson. I read a story during the lesson. When I watched the video tape later, I just sat there in shock. The teacher I was working with was very nice, just saying I might want to "read the story with more excitement and variation in my voice". I said, "Holy crap! Am I really that boring?!" I set out to become a better storyteller, and to pat myself on the back a bit, I would say I definately succeeded.

When I worked as a preschool teacher in a room with two other teachers, we would take turns reading to the kids, while the other two set out lunch and the mats for nap time. Sometimes when telling a story, I like to use different voices for each character. One of the other teachers commented to me, "I can always tell when you are stressed out, because your voices get even crazier than usual!"

Once I read the book "The Rainbow Fish" to the kids. If you aren't familiar with it, it is about a fish with beautiful sparkly scales. The other fish admire his scales, but he is selfish and doesn't want to give them away. He learns the importance of giving to others. It's a great book. After I read the book, I started to ask the kids questions about the story. One question I asked was, "Why didn't the rainbow fish want to give his scales away at first?" A little boy raised his hand and confidently shouted out, "Because he was a shellfish!" Shellfish-Selfish-Tomato-Tomahto.

In the summers, we would take the kids to the nearby library once a week, and they would each get to choose one book to take out. A child asked one of my coworkers if she would read the book he selected before lunch, so she began the story. Suddenly, she stammered and paused, and I looked over at her. Her face was red, and her eyes were looking at the page in surprise. She was reading about a kid whose grandpa was in the hospital, or something, and suddenly they were all at a huge party having fun. When she held the book up, (very quickly), to show the picture, I noticed all the people at the "party" were wearing black! Watching her ad lib the rest of the story was hilarious!

Another time, it was my turn to read before lunch, and I read them the book "The Paper Bag Princess". In the book, the princess is engaged to marry Ronald, the prince, but she discovers that he really doesn't care about her, and that he is much too concerned with her looks and what she is wearing. The line in the story is, "Prince Ronald, you may look like a prince, but you're really a bum". Shortly after I read the book, my coworkers husband came to visit for the very first time - to see where his lovely wife worked, and see the adorable children she talked about everyday. He came over nervously to sit beside her, and she introduced him, "Everyone, this is my husband Ron". The kids shouted out, "YOU'RE A BUM!!" Funny, I don't recall him visiting much after that.

I have been collecting children's books for a long time, and once, before Dylan came along, I asked Jim to read me one of the books. He abliged, nervously, and started reading a story about a bear to me. He was really trying. I'm sure he felt I was critiquing him, and evaluating his future worth as a father. He read one part, "Then, the bear closed his beddy little eyes". While trying not to bust out laughing, I gently asked, "His what?" "Um, his beddy, err his beady little eyes!", came his reply with the sheepish embarassed grin that I love. He has really improved since Dylan came along. Well, we certainly get enough practice.

10 comments:

Pam said...

practice does make perfect! ;) good storytelling sure does help in the line work work for mothers and teachers....

seriously...I'm still laughing at the line about squeezing your legs and bending it down to not pee yourself....

Julia said...

Oh, those were the days, weren't they?? I remember once I did one of the stories with a southern accent and I couldn't shake it the rest of the day.

And since you mentioned it, can you belive that we walked that many children out of the school, several blocks away, to the library every day?? What were we thinking? How did we not lose them? I can barely keep up with my own children at the library these days.

Shellie said...

Loved the RON story! I love kids books too, so fast an easy to read!

Jonny's Mommy said...

Reading is a great thing to do with your kids. My little one just isn't interested yet, but I'm sure he will be someday. I enjoy reading your blog and hearing about your little ones.

www.boondockramblings.wordpress.com

Kellan said...

Great post Jen!!! I love when I walk into one of my kids' classrooms (and I do often) and hear the teacher reading and they do what you say - read with such enthusiasm and fluctuations in the their voices and you can just see how much the kids love hearing a story read like that. I try to do that too when I read - my kids love hearing me read them a story.

Have a good weekend - see you soon. Kellan

JCK said...

The Paperbag Princess is a book we always give out for a birthday present. It is fabulous!

I have tagged you, Miss, for a meme. Come by when you come up for air amidst all of your reading...

Kristi S said...

I love reading aloud to the kids at school and they love it too!

Kellan said...

Hey Jen - thanks for coming by today. I hope you have a great weekend. Kellan

Jen said...

Pam, Mothers, teachers, nannies, life in general really. It's always a good thing to be able to tell a story in an interesting way.

Julia, I'm amazed at a lot of the things we did. I guess we weren't thinking, we were just doing what we were told to do. They did have those yellow shirts - The Quackers and The Waddlers - HA!

Shellie, Someday you will see my name on one as in 'written by", I hope, I hope.

Jonny's mommy,
I have been to your blog - I really enjoyed the post about your date. Sorry I didn't leave a comment - I hate that! Jonathan is a doll.

Kellan, Everyone does seem to have their own style of telling a story, huh? It is always fun to watch.

Jck, I'll be posting the meme soon. Munsch is a literary genius. I love all his books.

Kristi, Great to see you!

Sparx said...

I love telling stories... one day maybe my son will love hearing them! At the moment he's just humouring me I'm sure...