An important element in these programs is the experience of the principle that listening to stories lays the twin tracks for reading and writing. Carol has developed a series of engaging exercises to bring the basic skills of literature alive for children.
I'm still hearing superlatives from the teachers but, more important, the kids want to know when you're coming back. - Anne Leone, Director Teacher Training Program.
Understanding the function of the fictional point of view.
Seeing the ways an author brings characters to life.
Playing with time and place in a story.
Following the sequence of events in a tale: "somebody wanted something, but...".
Telling stories builds connections between listeners, literature, language, and me. Leading students from the fractious spaces of school auditoriums and cafeterias into the mind's eye, where imaginative stories live, is my goal. Passively watching me 'perform' stories is not a goal. Children need me to be present and in the moment on a basic level, therefore, I prefer to draw on a repertoire of stories from my career of thirty years, rather than pre-packaging programs for young audiences.
Programs begin with a sure-fire story (humorous, a touch scary or best of all, a seemingly scary tale with a humorous ending) to accomplish several things: the story engages listeners, focuses energies in the room, 'proves' both storytelling's appeal and assures them I know they aren't 'babies.' These -- very tangible -- intangibles make it possible for kids to listen to more subtle or layered stories which follow.
Storytelling supports the curriculum implicitly and explicitly, allowing teachers to use character, plot, and themes in stories as models for discussions, as jumping-off places, as opportunities for comparisons, or to reinforce the lessons of the day. The art of storytelling needs no excuse for its existence, and yet it does accomplish much -- deftly and subtly -- and provides an array of educational experiences:
The greatest gift of a language arts program helps children develop an ease and facility with words, while restoring vitality to today's language that has reduced "joy" to a soap, "passion" to a perfume & "kindness" to a hair product.
Seeing with the inward eye -- envisioning -- is the first step in developing both creativity and empathy. As Ursula Le Guin said on accepting the National Book Award: "At this point, realism is perhaps the least adequate means of understanding or portraying the incredible realities of our existence...For, as a great scientist [Einstein] has said and as all children know, it is by the imagination, above all, that we achieve perception and compassion and hope."
Stories bundle up the past, making it a gift for the future. In the "fabrication" of stories lie the deeper truths of living. Here is entertainment with value!
Stories subtly reinforce the values all of us need to survive as a people and to personally thrive, stressing the importance of: putting yourself in alinement with trustworthy people; not being fooled by appearances; developing common sense, fairness, and a sense of humor; evaluating when to be courageous and when to act with compassion.
Stories move us with an experience of what is universal in the human heart, while simultaneously celebrating the geographic, historic, ethnic, religious, and cultural details that distinguish cultures. Stories lie at the heart of the human experience; they are a wellspring for multi-cultural education.
Stories subtly reinforce the skills needed for today's literature-based programs: listening and sequencing skills, language development, experiencing first hand how style, tone, point of view and other literary terms function in a story.