The Importance of Reading and Storytelling
Educational Resources by Andy Fraenkel — Recipient of a WV Artist Fellowship Award, a Next Generation Indie Book Award, a Storytelling World Award, a National Endowment of the Arts Grant, and an Ohio River Border Initiative Grant. Andy is a 40 year plus resident of New Vrindaban community and a disciple of Srila Prabhupada.
The Importance of Storytelling
The Need for Audio CDs
Teachers in our schools see that children have been saturated with videos, movies and computer games. To help children, teachers are returning to basic elements, and parents need to understand this to aid their children as well. Scholar and researcher Kieran Egan explains: “Story is one of the most important human inventions… The story provides the missing link that makes learning meaningful… It evokes, stimulates, and develops the imagination.”
Storytelling is an age old tool in all cultures around the world. It is both a technology and an art form. We are shaped from our childhood by the stories we hear. When children hear or read a story it helps to strengthen their imaginations, increase their vocabularies, and develop their own speaking skills.
The Spoken Word
One of our most important tasks is to transmit the joy and the richness of the spoken word to young people and provide them with various role models of creative self expression. I believe that when kids are inspired to become more effective communicators everyone stands to benefit.
Stories Carve Lessons On Our Hearts
Stories help us know what is right and wrong and teaches us how to approach life’s obstacles and to understand that our actions have consequences. Stories are for the young and old, the rich and the poor, the learned and unlearned. Everyone will delight in a story well told. Especially in our Vedic tradition we are so close to stories that we take them for granted.
The Spiritual Element
In Srimad Bhagavatam 3:13:48, Srila Prabhupada writes, “Every one of us is fond of hearing some wonderful narration, but most stories are neither auspicious nor worth hearing because they are of the inferior quality of material nature. Every living entity is of superior quality, spirit soul, and nothing material can be auspicious for him. Intelligent persons should therefore hear personally and cause others to hear the descriptive narrations (stories) of the Lord’s activities, for that will destroy the pangs of material existence. Out of His causeless mercy only, the Lord comes to this earth and leaves behind His merciful activities so that the devotees may derive transcendental benefit.”
Tips On Reading To Kids
*Read the book or section aloud to yourself before you read it to your child. Get a sense of the flow of the story and the texture of the words as you speak them. Doing anything well takes a little practice.
*You can start reading with children as early as possible. You are the example in their lives. This is the time to get your child started on the road to reading. Good readers will become good learners.
*Find age appropriate material and have a regulated time for reading. At times you might read material above their level to see how they do with it.
*As much as possible, read with expression, or in other words, dramatically. Children especially love the sounds of words and love exaggeration.
*Express the story with your face and hand (considering you are using one hand to hold the book).
*Don’t read too fast, but read at an appropriate pace. Reading to your kids will help them exercise their imaginations as they create pictures of the story in their minds. As they mature, this ability will help them see the possibilities in their own lives.
*Whether you read a story or see a movie, it’s important to reflect upon and discuss the story. Of course, don’t present your time together as a ‘lesson’ and don’t impose your ideas. Encourage kids to talk about what they thought of the story and what they liked about it and if they had any concerns about it. A story may bring up all sorts of emotions in a child. Remember, there are no right or wrong views.
*It’s very important to praise and encourage your child. All too often we only pay attention to kids to correct them when they are doing something wrong.
Tips On Storytelling
*Find a story that you enjoyed reading.
*Read the story aloud several times. Note the characters and progression of events.
* Write out the story in your own words and practice telling it.
*Storytelling exercises the imagination. Use visualization – see the story unfold in the mind’s eye and describe what you’re seeing.
*Go back and read it aloud again.
*Find the conflict, the tension. What do the characters in your story want most? What is preventing them from getting it? How do the characters change by the end of the story?
*Know exactly how you will start and end the story.
*What does the story tell you about how people treat one another?
*Determine that the story is appropriate for your audience. Are they all kids or all adults or a mix? Are they familiar with the material or not?
*Stand comfortably. Look out to your audience, here and there, making eye contact. Don’t look down and talk to the floor.
*Punctuate the story with gesture. Find a word or phrase where a gesture or movement would strengthen the telling. Don’t make unnecessary, distracting movements with your hands.
*Speak clearly. Enjoy the texture of the words. In general, we have a tendency to speak too quickly. Slow down.
*Breathe deeply. Relax and enjoy telling the story. Pause at the end of the story.
*Avoid: beginning with an apology; long introduction; getting sidetracked; fidgeting; moralizing; character voices if you’re not good at it – it’s not really necessary.
For folktales, fairytales, and legends from around the world check 398.2 at your local library.