"Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in heart forever.” – Native American Proverb
Early in my teaching journey, I discovered Vivian Paley, an early childhood educator, researcher, and author. My first Paley book was Wally’s Stories in which she describes using storytelling and acting in her kindergarten classroom. It is her second of 13 books, written in 1981, but still very relevant today. I went on to read and integrate many of Paley’s works, but Wally has always remained close in my mind. I incorporate storytelling in some form in my classroom, some years much more so than others. Each time, it takes on a different direction, but always the stories are the focus.
This year, It started with a remembered story, written last year by Louisa, Charlie The Troll. I had loved this story as it was being told to me. So simple, yet so eloquently told by a 4-year-old. "There once was a troll who walked through 100 forests for 1000 years." My own mind's eye could picture this ancient troll, roaming the forests, alone for a 1000 years. Then, he met another troll and what happens next in the story is something I wish more humans could do. "The troll said, 'we may not be alike, but we are both trolls.' They became friends." This year, I knew I wanted to explore storytelling in-depth with the children, but we needed a story to start with. I pulled out Charlie the Troll in the early weeks of school and we acted it out. Stories flowed from there. We've had stories about penguins, polar bears, birds, mermaids…and often, dragons. Not all have told a story yet, some aren't ready. But all have participated in the magic of making a story come alive either by being an active listener, acting out a part, or giving feedback.
Children feel valued and validated when they tell their stories and people listen. When they see their stories come to life through action--by acting it out, or through puppetry, movement, or song--they see their ideas come to life in a concrete way. They know their creative ideas are valued by others, their inner thoughts are important. But more importantly, their stories become a vehicle to self-expression—a way of explaining themselves, their world, and their thoughts and imaginations to one another. But I want to do more than storytelling this year. I want to also focus on story-listening. While it is so important to tell our own stories, it is equally important to listen to others’ stories. I want the children to see that stories come in all sorts of forms—a movement, a quilt, a song. I want them to see and hear the stories all around them in their world, to pay attention to the real and imagined stories they encounter every day. I’m asking and hoping for our community to join us in storytelling. My hope is that children will see adults participating in the very important work of creating and telling stories.
“Stories are a communal currency of humanity." --Tahir Shah, in Arabian Nights