Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s the answer?

For some unknown reason, a half-remembered phrase is haunting my mind. The part I think I’m remembering consists of the following words: a promise to the future. But are those words part of a riddle? And, if so, what is the answer? What is the promise to the future?  A letter is the possible answer that is drifting into my mind.

But can a letter be a promise to the future? In many circumstances, I suppose it can. A letter to a friend or a relative may be a vouchsafe of future contact. And I suppose that, even if the letter ends a relationship, it can be a promise to the future as in: I’m never going to talk to you again, that’s it for ever.

Well, maybe one of you much-valued blog-readers will enlighten me as to the riddle, if riddle it is. Meantime, let me confess the reason the bothersome question came into my mind in the first place. The answer lies in the unusual fact that I’m writing this blog three whole days before it gets published on Saturday. So it really does feel like a promise to the future. For who knows what may have happened between now and then?

The immediate future:

In my case what is planned is a day with my brother today and then tomorrow making the journey from my Pembrokeshire house to Cardiff to spend Friday and Saturday at a symposium (grand term!) at the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling. The subject of the symposium represents two sides of a promising concept: stories as refuge and stories for refugees. For me, the subject feels important. I’ve never worked with refugees but I’d like to and I certainly think of stories as a refuge and also as an inspiration. I’m looking forward to what the symposium offers.

How babies learn:

Meantime, my attention got drawn to a long Guardian article yesterday (Who’s a fast learner then?) on the subject of how babies learn. In it, the author of the piece, Alex Beard, writes about an American man by the name of Deb Roy who was building robots at the age of six. Robots subsequently became part of Deb Roy’s research into the question of  how human beings learn language. But as Beard’s piece goes on to show, Deb Roy subsequently went on to learn why robots cannot teach you how children learn and why robotic methods such as using flash-cards do not and cannot teach children language. Language is a social matter and, as Beard puts it, human learning is ‘communal and interactive’.

A lovely paragraph in Beard’s piece quotes a personal story from Deb Roy about the first occasion when his infant son uttered something that wasn’t just babble. Roy was sitting with him looking at pictures when, looking at a picture of a fish on the wall, the little boy distinctly said ‘fah’. The father knew it wasn’t just a coincidence because, immediately afterwards, the child turned towards his father. ‘And he had this kind of look, like a cartoon lightbulb going on– an “Ah, now I get it” kind of look.’

It’s my experience that when you’re storytelling with little ones, you often get that kind of look. And not only with little ones but with older ones too. So Alex Beard’s piece made me want to exclaim: ‘Stories! That’s exactly what stories do when they’re told in a sociable situation.’  Storytelling is a communal thing, it’s about connection and meaning and finding the feeling of things and it’s my profound hope that that’s what comes across in my new book on storytelling with Early Years children. In this particular sense, I do believe that storytelling with little ones is a letter to the future.

A favourite riddle:

Phew! It’s odd. When I started writing this piece for this Saturday’s blog, I had no idea I’d be making a connection between my half-remembered riddle and storytelling with young children. The connection seems to have made itself and on that note I’d better end but, so as to end positively in regard to riddles, let me remind you of a lovely one I do always remember.

Question: What’s in the eye of the man who holds a bee in his hand?

Answer: Beauty – because beauty is in the eye of the beholder (beeholder).

PS: Top is the bee, bottom is the eye that sees the bee.

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