Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Wintering Out 2

A chance encounter

Wow! Coincidence and Storytelling in Education – two of my favourite themes in one chance encounter. There I was, on the train back from Cardiff last Saturday after watching New Zealand beating Wales at rugby (alas!) when, falling deep into conversation with the woman sitting next to me, I soon learned that she was American, a school librarian currently working in Germany and also – amazing! – a committed storyteller.

So all the way back through flooded Southern England, we exchanged experiences and ideas. Back in the 8Os she’d fallen in love with storytelling when she was sent to the big Jonesborough Festival that happens each year in Tennessee. Since then, as everything she said attested, she has developed a deep awareness of its power with children. More than that, she too believes that storytelling is especially important at this time when, spending so many hours on their Gameboys and watching TV, children have so much less of the vital experience of engaging with other people.

Reason for action

We know it to be true, all those of us who’ve told stories with children. It is such a powerful thing to do. It creates engagement, develops imagination and encourages language. But it’s in dire danger of falling by the wayside at this time when social media and the internet are getting overwhelming attention. Not that Twitter and Facebook and Google are not also marvellous for the sharing of stories and communication. What they do not have, however, is the face-to-face, ear-to-ear immediacy that storytelling gives.

So please spread the word.

It’s time for everyone who is committed to storytelling in education to speak to their friends about it and to think about what they can do to bring it back to public attention. Otherwise I fear the experience of a whole generation of storytellers who have gained a huge amount of know-how in the schools and libraries of our country is about to be lost.

This week’s seasonal tale

This little tale – The Little Fir Tree – went into my Blog at about this time last year. I’m repeating it now for two reasons – first, because I like it, second because it is about finding value in what can so easily be overlooked.

Seasonal Tale: The Little Fir Tree

There was once a little fir tree that felt all alone in the forest. The other trees were bigger by far and sometimes they became boastful. Some said they were the biggest, some said they were the strongest, some said they produced the most beautiful wood, some said they produced the juiciest fruit. The little fir tree felt very sad. He wasn’t tall. He wasn’t strong. No-one sought him for his wood or his fruit. He longed to be appreciated but he didn’t  think he deserved it. 

Then one day a few weeks before Christmas when snow was thick on the ground, two children ran into the forest. They were calling and laughing and looking around and when they saw the little fir tree, they stopped and said to each other, ‘This little fir tree is just right!’ Then they called to their parents, ‘We’ve found it! We’ve found it!  Come here, we’ve found it.’

When the parents arrived, they agreed with their children: the little fir tree would be just right. But when the father brought out his spade and started digging round the fir tree’s roots, the little fir tree felt very afraid. He didn’t know what the people had meant when they said he was just right. He had no idea what was going to happen. He didn’t know if he’d be safe. But then he realised that the father was taking very great care. He didn’t harm even one of his roots. He tucked him into a bucket of earth with plenty of earth around him to keep him steady and then he carried him carefully till they came to a house.

Inside the house it was bright and light and very warm. There were lots of decorations. The little fir tree was given pride of place in the family’s sitting room and the children covered the bucket where the father had put him with a piece of red coloured paper. Then the children fixed a silver star on the top of his topmost branch and hung his branches with sparkly tinsel and bells.

The little fir tree began enjoying himself. For the first time in his life, he felt appreciated.

That Christmas was a wonderful time. The little fir tree enjoyed everything about it, even the night-time when everything was quiet and stars shone through the window. And after Christmas he didn’t mind at all when the family took him into their garden and planted him next to the hedge. He felt very safe and he felt very loved and everything else felt good as well now that he knew he was valued.

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