Monday, August 22, 2011

Own It

I find myself changing stories often.  Sometimes elements of a story seems silly to me or sometimes I look at a story and know that I would not be comfortable telling the story as written. 

I have even changed a story without realizing it.  Years ago I worked with a student getting her school media specialist degree.  She had to do a storytime and be observed by her professor.  She did a Saturday storytime program and I gave her all the material I had used for the weekday program including a copy of a flannel board story I had been telling for years.  She chose what she wanted to do.  She did include the flannel board story.  When she told the story at the program I was puzzled.  It didn't sound anything like the story I told.  After the program I read the original story that I had given her and realized that over the years I had changed the story tremendously and had made it my own.  (I liked my version better than the original.)

This experience brought home to me the concept that the oral tradition is a constantly changing one even with a simple flannel board story.  There are as many stories as there are storytellers.  From then on I have made stories my own by telling them the way I want to tell them.  I particularly like using the flannel board because the pieces provide the visual clues to help me tell the story but do not limit me in the way I tell it.  Some stories I never tell the same way twice.  (This is particularly true when I do my fractured version of "Goldilocks and the Three Bears."  I mostly wing it with this story.)  Props also provide visual clues for storytelling. 

I actually did tell a story without any props and it went over quite well and with practice I could probably turn into a traditional storyteller but I'm a visual person and I enjoy looking at interesting pictures and objects so I want them to be part of my storytelling.  I consider myself a children's librarian first and then a storyteller.  I still feel that a great picture book is an essential part of a storytime program.   However, as fewer children are exposed to live storytelling, that aspect is also becoming a more important part of a storytime program.  So I am always looking for different ways to tell stories and different stories to tell.  In order to engage children not only do I have to be comfortable with my material but I have to enjoy telling the stories. 

Lately I have been going through folktale and storytelling compilations to find new material.  I will probably end up changing some to make them my own but then I will have some new favorite stories to tell.

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