In this chapter, Betty Rosen who is a teacher and storyteller, writes about the magic of storytelling. For those of us who feel safe with a book in our hands, reading this chapter may give us the confidence to let go of the book and engage in the dangerous but immensely rewarding task of telling rather than reading.
I had finished telling my story ten minutes before. Most of the children were playing outside or had gone into the dining hall. The classroom door opened and Sumita, aged six, armed, literally and metaphorically, with her best friend, sidled up and inched her way between me and the class teacher. 'Was that true, then, miss?' she whispered, 'Was it true what you told us?'
True? I might have been telling them stories about myself from my own child' hood days-or motherhood days, or grandmotherhood days, or personhood days. Such stories we all have. They may not be true in detail-memory or wishful-thinking or both can play tricks on us-but they are true in principle, which is what counts. Such stories make storytellers of us all, every day-you and me and them. Such stories have the right to a daily place in the nursery and infants' schoolroom: adults must tell their own stories if they are to elicit stories from the lives occupied by the children they care for. Personal experience is the class- or nursery-room's strongest resource. Each child has expert knowledge of her/his own life: it's easiest to become articulate about what you know best. And you know your own life is real. But the story I had just told Sumita's class was a different sort. This one was about a lonely fisherman who stole a mermaid's magic garment as she sat singing on a rock. He fell in love with her, of course, even though she had her back to him, for such was the beauty of her lovely voice. He knew, like all the people in that part of Donegal, that without her magic cloth she was but a woman, unable to return to the water and obliged to follow the thief, even to the end of the world. But this mermaid needs to walk on her two little feet only as far as the fisherman's thatched, whitewashed cottage in the hamlet on the cliff top where the other fisherfolk live.
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Publication information: Book title: The Early Years: A Reader. Contributors: Sandra Smidt - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: London. Publication year: 1998. Page number: 153.
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