I feel truly blessed with my job which allows me to work with the inspiring, forthright, honest, funny and creative little people that we call children. This week has seen me working at different places, sharing stories with different audiences and it’s been great so here is my round up…
A few weeks ago, I contacted Bridge Chapel http://www.bridgechapel.co.uk/ about doing some storytelling there during the half term holiday. Following a couple of meetings everything was set in place.
Now before, I go on to talk about the storytelling, I feel I should explain about the Chapel. Although only five minutes from my house, I am ashamed to say I’d never heard of it until now. This is a warm, friendly and welcoming place which is both a church and bustling community centre. There are groups, meetings and facilities for all sectors of the community including the elderly, special needs, youth, families, church goers. It really is a hive of activity.
Every school holiday they provide softplay for 4 year olds and under. This is very popular but older siblings had nothing to do. And this is where I came in. Based in a warm, cosy room I had been asked to deliver my stories over a series of 4 sessions every day. The stories were for any age 0-11. As this was a new venture, nobody knew what to expect but it was wonderful!
If you’ve never told stories to a group of children (and grown ups) before it can be a bit daunting. Many people have said “I don’t know how you do it. Don’t you get embarrassed?” The short answer is no I don’t. Years of teaching have left their mark!
What’s lovely about watching children who are engrossed in stories is their expressions. Wide eyes, open mouths, they hang on every word. When you drop your voice to a whisper they crouch in on themselves. When you use a big booming voice they mimic you with hands on hips or cross faces. When you pull the props out of the tin they gasp in wonderment. You can see that some of them have really been transported to the place where the story is. If you could bottle all this and sell it the world would be a happier place!
What’s also lovely to watch is how differently children respond in terms of their interactivity. This is easiest to spot when you are telling the well known traditional tales with repeated refrains for the children to join in with. Some children don’t like to join in, preferring to listen and watch but others make it into a multi-sensory experience. This happened last week during the tale of the Little Red Hen. One of the little girls became incredibly animated. She quickly picked up on the repeated lines and joined in with gusto and expression. The other grown ups in the room were captivated by her performance and she was just 4. She really became those characters and really was cross when no one would help her plant the wheat or cut it down. She really was a delight to watch. Moments like this are wonderful to be part of. If you could bottle all this and sell it, the world would be a happier place!
What’s also lovely to see is HOW children listen. The education system would have you believe that only pupils who are sitting bolt upright with arms folded and legs crossed are truly listening. For years I had to play along with this belief. Now I can enjoy the different listening styles. Some children like to sit cross legged focussing on the person delivering the tales. Some children like to lounge on their grown ups laps playing with strands of their mum or dad’s hair or buttons on their jackets. Some children (mostly the under 2’s) like to stand directly in front of you watching your mouth and eyes as you talk. Some children like to lie fully down on their tummies, head on hands so they can still look up and see what is happening. In fact the little girl who liked to lie down the most came to nearly every storytelling session every day and yet in school she would have been told off for listening to stories that way. I knew she was listening and that’s what mattered. If you could bottle all this and sell it, the world would be a happier place!
The days flew by really quickly and quite a few children came back for more than one session. As I said at the beginning, children can be honest and forthright so the fact that they chose to come back was a real seal of approval! The media would have you believe that they know what children want ie the latest bleeping gadget, the expensive array of plastic based products, the latest pop band merchandise. But I think if you asked all the children who came to those story sessions what they liked they would have said stories! And if you could bottle that and sell it, the world would definitely be a happier place.
Thanks for reading.
Hopefully, I’ll be back at the Bridge again soon.
To see some of the feedback from those sessions please visit www.littlelambpublishing.co.uk