Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The topic of ABC and 123 Summer Picnic this week is Storytelling. When I saw the subject, my first thought was, What exactly is  storytelling? Of course, the name speaks for itself – we tell stories. But to me true storytelling includes a few important components:

The story is told, not read and most positively not watched on TV. TV is a wonderful thing (sometimes), but when i think of storytelling, I rather think of sitting by campfire, not sitting in front of TV lapping up the visuals already constructed for you by someone else.

  • The story has structure and rhythm to it – beginning, middle and end. A lot of good stories in my native language are poems.
  • The story should help the listener to visualize the world or the situation.
  • Ideally, the story is an original product of storyteller’s mind.
  • I used to be a good storyteller. Never original, but I read enough books to be able to pull a story together. It was my “specialty” in summer camps – telling stories to other girls when we were supposed to be sleeping. However, I didn’t exercise this ability for many-many years. I went to study engineering, I didn’t have friends who were into fantasy and storytelling, and… we lose what we don’t use. I continued to read a lot of fiction, but I never had a need to retell it to anyone… until now. My daughter loves listening to stories, but I admit that I usually take an easy way out of reading them to her. We read all kinds of things – fairy tales, animal stories, poems, fact-based books. Sometimes I retell her the books when we are waiting or in the car, but she is rarely satisfied with my oral delivery. Lately she started to get an idea of the storytelling and started to say, Tell me the story about the night I was born (we read the book with this name) or Tell me the story when you were a baby. That’s where I truly stumble – I find it hard to put together an original story on the fly that wouldn’t be just a dry retelling of factual events. Normally I think in English, but I noticed that when I am trying to produce a story on the fly, I shift back to my native Russian and translate back, which makes it even more awkward. My husband suggested that I should start writing stories to get back into storytelling groove, and maybe he is right. The problem is that I need time and desire for such an enterprise, and at this point I have neither.
  • Anna talks to herself all the time. It’s fun to listen in to her conversation with her favorite kitty over the baby monitor when she is supposed to be sleeping. She tells him pretty elaborate stories, where facts of the day are mixed with the books that she read and cartoons she watched. It’s fun to see her imagination unfold and maybe if we continue to encourage her, she will be the one telling and writing good stories in our family. I can’t wait to read other entries in the Picnic and see what others are doing to encourage storytelling in their homes.


Eva said...

Wow that's really neat that you were able to tell stories! I am definitely not an oral storyteller, though I really do enjoy creative writing. It's nice to see Anna blossoming into a storyteller too!

Elise said...

My little girl, who is three in September has recently started saying: Mummy, tell a princess story about the circus please". We recently went to the circus and she likes princesses. So she loves to sit and listen as I make up stories about a princess going in her carriage to the circus. I agree, the imagery has to be very vivid.

Using Savvy's interests to come up with characters and the plot has proven to be successful.

Susana said...

I have to admit, this is an area I am not very good at. My kids do have good imaginations and love to "tell" stories-my 4 year old tells them all day long as of recently and my 9 year old loves, loves writing them! Me, I am not as creative--I stick to the book reading:-).

You have some great ideas and points in this post--thanks for sharing them all.

Cindy said...

Your hubby is right, you should be writing. Have Anna help. She would love it.

Annette said...

I don't have the imagination for creative stories, but I'm glad you do!

Katie, Kevin and kids said...

I love the way you put together this post. You've included a lot of useful info and personal experience. I agree that storytelling is a lost art. I was the one at summer camp who always wished I was clever enough to come up with stories to tell off the cuff and to keep other's attention. That is a gift!

Diana said...

I don't think I am a natural storyteller, but maybe if we start with memories, I could do it. It really is a lost art for so many of us.