Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Impact

Stories create bonds. Children and grandparents, children and parents, adults and their parents: you name the relationship, it probably always benefits from stories.

This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about a good friend here in Pembrokeshire (where I still am). Her husband, Eddie, is a hilarious storyteller with whoever is his audience. I’ve written about him before in this blog. But Eddie’s wife, Liz, is a great storyteller too, particularly with her grandchildren. I’ve never actually seen her with them. I just know from the way she talks about them and what she reports of how they respond. They ask her for a story and, hey presto, she’s telling one to them. The stories forge themselves in her mind and come out of her mouth and she delights in the process. It’s evident that those grandchildren of hers love the experience too for, very often when I see her, she talks about it – and not only because she knows that I’ve worked as a storyteller and love stories too. I think she talks about it because it’s such a satisfying process for her and she gains from the doing of it as much as do they.

Thinking about the responses of children to stories takes my mind back to the boy in one of the Early Years groups I used to visit on a regular basis. This was in the days before I was telling stories without the book. My part-time job as a Lambeth Libraries storyteller involved presenting picture-book stories. But of course what you learn when you’re presenting a book to young children is that you have to make the book come alive. You have to do it through your facial expressions, actions you make with your hands and the sense of energy with which you present the story. Even if you haven’t moved away from the book as your medium for telling a story, you’re somehow living the story aloud with your audience.

On this occasion, I was presenting a book which I think I remember was entitled Dark.  Its pages presented many different scenes of people at the approach of night. Scenes such as that of a mother saying goodnight to her child. Or friends saying goodnight to each other at a crossroads. Or a mother cat looking for her kitten on a roof-top. Some of the scenes included a bright yellow moon which clearly had a deep effect on one of the listeners in the Early Years group with which I was doing a session. This particular boy was tall for his age and very quiet. Indeed, I’d been told he was mute. He certainly never spoke in my hearing. But as I turned the pages of that book about night, he began rising from his seat as I got to the first of the pages showing that bright yellow moon. Then, stretching out his hand towards the book, he began pointing towards that moon as out of his mouth, and in a trembling voice, came the word Moon. He repeated it again and again. Moon. Moon. Moon.

Of course it was a moving moment. Even as I remember it now, it almost brings me to tears as it did then. So it’s not only words that create that sense of involvement for a child. It’s the feeling that the experience on the page of a book is real, it is recognised, it is full of emotion. The boy’s response goes to show how important a story can be for a child. Whether in a book or not, the story can affirm the reality of experience and also add to it. Nor does its importance necessarily end as the child gets older. For me, it was hugely touching when, as an adult, one of my two foster-sons – and they both got stories each night during the five years they were with us – was recalling our times of book-sharing and saying how much they’d meant to him. Indeed, he said it was one of the things he remembered most vividly about his years with Paul and me.

Stories can be given in different ways. But whether from books or out of your mouth, it’s so important to value the impact they can have, the sharing they can bring and the way in which that sharing can still be remembered many years later.

Enough. On with the motley. It’s a bright grey day here in Pembrokeshire. We’ll be going back to London very soon and meantime there’s lots to do.

PS: My photography leaves lots to be desired. But I do enjoy it even when the attempt to convey the beauty of a particular moon doesn’t feel as if it can ever fully succeed.

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4 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Impact”

  1. Beatrice Richards Says:

    What a lovely surprise Mary to see my name and Eddies in your blog Thank you.That praise makes it all worthwhile X

  2. Karen Tovell Says:

    Thank you for your always interesting blog, Mary. This week’s entry immediately brought to mind an experience I had with someone at the other end of the age ladder from the little boy. Almost thirty years ago (!) I was visiting a residential care home for the elderly where I was informed by the staff of an elderly lady who was almost completely deaf and who had failing eyesight. “She has forgotten how to speak,” I was told by the staff, ” She doesn’t say a word.” Although they cared for her in very kindly and efficient way, they had so much difficulty in communicating with her that they had long given up and so over time she had become increasingly withdrawn.
    I happened to have a very colourful, three dimensional tapestry with me of an outdoor garden scene and when I laid it over our knees and guided her hands towards it, after a few moments her face lit up and she uttered single words at first…apple, red, flowers, sun… and soon simple, disjointed sentences from which we made a story about the scene. I shall never forget how amazed the staff were and how this experience encouraged them to seek new ways of communicating with her.

  3. Jess Says:

    Really enjoyed this post…stories are amazing and I believe they stay with us forever 🙂 Hope you get all your jobs done, its a grey day here toot least the rain has stopped…for now!

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Jess, thanks so much for your lovely comment on my last post. And what a lovely email address for it to come from!

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