Storytelling is one of the oldest and most profitable businesses on the planet. Modern stories are often told through movies, books and video games, but the oral tradition has something unique to offer - a bond between the storyteller and the listener. This is why it’s such a vital tool for parents, educators and anyone interested in creating a lasting bond with children.
Think of it as the difference between a can of tomato sauce and homemade marinara. A practiced storyteller draws upon the events and objects within a child's immediate surroundings, like plucking tomatoes and herbs from the garden, then crafts stories that are not merely entertaining (or tasty), but local and organic - crafted precisely for those children in that place.
In this slim book, we will outline the key ingredients so that you can easily improvise stories from within the environment in which your children live. We are parents and teachers with hundreds, perhaps thousands, of story-hours under our belts, but this book has nothing to do with how to tell our stories (or anyone else's). It has everything to do with how to tell yours.
Silke Markowski is a Waldorf Teacher with over thirty years of experience in the classroom. In 1995, she co-founded the Taos Waldorf School and now runs an independent forest kindergarten, Taos Earth Children. Storytelling is a principle part of her day, and not just at story time. Whether sitting under a tree and finger-knitting, playing a game or defusing a conflict, her stories and songs help children learn spontaneously and without formal instruction.
Joe Brodnik is a father, teacher and consummate storyteller. He spends the bulk of his days inside and out with children, listening for the stories they tell themselves. What is it that leads a person to love herself? In his search, he tells many of his own stories, turning over stones, spotting lizards and making merry. He writes a blog called Off Grid Kids with over 10,000 followers.
Chapter 1 — The Basic Storytelling Loop
Chapter 2 — Getting Over Your Fear (Everyone is a Good Storyteller)
Chapter 3 — Why We Tell Stories
Chapter 4 — When to Tell Stories
Chapter 5 — Cultivating Observation and Creativity in Your Stories
Chapter 6 — The Origin of Stories
Chapter 7 — Embedding Your Stories in Place
Chapter 8 — Finding the Kernel or Entry Point
Chapter 9 — Fill the Big World with Small Things
Chapter 10 — Developing a Theme or Frame
Chapter 11 — The Guts - Surprise, Sense and Action
Chapter 12 — Summary
Chapter 13 — Stories for Holidays, Rites of Passage and Difficult Situations
Appendix — Sample Stories
Chapter 1 - The Storytelling Loop
- Make Something
- Play With It
- Tell a Story About it
Here's how it works—make a fairy boat from twigs, grass and mud. Or noodles, computers or scraps of carpet. Whatever. Then let the kids play with it. It doesn't even matter if it sinks. Just laugh. Then, after lunch or during a quiet time, tell a story where a mouse (or a fairy, an ant, etc.) finds a small boat along the river and sets sail for adventure.
Don't have a fairy boat? Make a little house, or a fort. You can refer to a child's backpack, a discarded piece of gum under the playground slide, or a tree with a unique shape. Anything. Take one to three concrete things (or events) from your day and use them as anchors in your story. Imagine what an industrious ant can do with a piece of gum.
This ties reality into imagination, and then back again. After the story, the kids will inevitably want to play out some of the story, in which case they might need to make a boat, in which case there might be a boat in the next story...
This is the storytelling loop. It is more powerful than any movie or book, because it's about the physical things in a child's immediate reality, and it can be about anything.
Budget and Plans
We have a rough draft. In the following months, we will be finalizing that draft, hiring an editor, commissioning a cover page, and formatting the layout for print. Joe has done much of this work before, designing, editing and printing booklets for a local non-profit, but we want to hire a few professionals to make the final product really zing. We estimate editing and formatting to cost $1,500.
Once the final manuscript is complete, we plan to print 500 copies. Rewards for supporters will be sent out first and the remaining copies will be marketed and sold online via Off Grid Kids and in person via our network of parents and friends in Taos. We estimate printing and shipping to cost $2,000.
If successful, we plan to use this book to solicit a publisher who can help us print and distribute nationwide.
Total Cost: $3,500
There are hundreds of storybooks on the market today, including several that give some instruction and background on storytelling. Some of these books are excellent, but each is primarily focused on memorizing and retelling stories that someone, whether the author or someone else, has written for you. This is not our intention. Our book is not a collection of stories. It outlines a simple method to help you to craft your own stories using concrete elements or activities from within your child's immediate environment so that your stories are imminently relevant and give your children an immediate outlet for play.
This technique is something we employ every single day, and it does not require a master storyteller. Below, we offer a few brief summaries of the most relevant titles to help explain why our book is unique and timely.
How to Tell Stories to Children Plus 33 Stories to Tell Them by Sara Cone Bryant
Originally published in 1910, this book was reprinted in 2008 with a modern cover but otherwise minor edits from the original edition. It is a good book, but one which is focused on telling fairy tales and other classic stories to children.
The Art of the Story-Teller by Marie L. Shedlock
Originally published in 1915, this book was reprinted in 2010 with a modern cover but otherwise minor edits from the original edition. Like Sara Cone Bryant's book, the content is designed to teach the reader how to tell fairy tales and other classic stories. In the introduction, she writes, "It is to be hoped that someday stories will be told to school groups only by experts who have devoted special time and preparation to the art of telling them."
This is precisely the opposite of our message, which is that everyone is a good storyteller and no expert can replace the intimacy of a child's own environment, parent or caregiver. Further, because these stories are crafted from out of the child's immediate environment, there is a direct and physical outlet for imaginative play afterward.
The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby
Published in 2008, this master screenwriter turned author lays out his strategy for creating a compelling story. Geared towards adults who are interested in screenwriting and other big ticket stories, it was a runaway success and remains a classic. Other books like Truby's are on the market, geared towards TED Talks, performance arts and other adult-to-adult storytelling techniques. The focus is on how to make money and be a success with very little attention given to the authentic and spontaneous expression of love and intimacy which is at the heart of our method.
Therapeutic Storytelling by Susan Perrow
Published in 2012, this book is perhaps the closest model to the method we are sharing. However, this book is specifically geared toward "therapeutic" stories, and Perrow's method involves writing stories, which means thinking about them, planning them, memorizing them, etc. This is a handbook for experts.
Our book is about spontaneously crafting stories - amusing, informative, behavioral, therapeutic, etc. - on the spot. To the novice storyteller this may sound hard, but the fact is that it's much easier.In other words, the goal of our method is not the world's foremost crafted story to instruct about bullies or the death of a parent, but just the day to day stories that build intimacy, trust and craft between parent and child, or educator and child. Any parent or caregiver can do this, and our method can help get you started.
In summary, there is a renewed interest in the art of storytelling. You probably have heard of storytelling festivals and events in your neck of the woods. But so far, no modern person has outlined easy steps for parents and educators to construct their own stories on the spot for the benefit of their children. This is our goal, and the method is simple. The book is short and sweet.
Risks and challenges
Any minor setbacks with budgeting or scheduling will require only minor changes, i.e. perhaps a simpler cover or fewer printed books. No major challenges are foreseeable at this point.
If we do not get fully funded, we will proceed with self-publishing, if perhaps on a smaller scale. We believe in this work, because we see the value of it in the children on a daily basis. Perhaps just as important - this project has value to us aside from financial success. The writing, editing and even the business transactions will educate us about the process of crafting and publishing a book, knowledge which will be of value to us well into the future.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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