by Melissa Jaramillo
If you've ever been around a child, you've probably heard, "Tell me a story!" Who could resist that request?
Children are wide open to the magic of storytelling like a blossom opens to the sun. A well-told story entertains and educates. It can cut across age barriers and its listeners absorb the tale and its lessons.
Master Native American storyteller, Dayton Edmonds, has enthralled audiences ranging from preschoolers to elders with tales passed down through the generations. He brings folklore like, "The Gift of Rabbit" and "Coyote and Plum" to life with hand gestures, various voices, illusion and props.
One of my kids, who listened to these stories says, "He uses his voice to draw people in and his hands as if he were the main character. I think his stories really stick because he can exaggerate things without you catching on at first."
Dayton uses storytelling, puppetry, clowning, positive imaging and other skills to teach sensitivity and awareness. He also views it as an opportunity to teach about Native American culture. Dayton says, "My purpose is to tell the story; to pass it on so that others may hear, see, feel and enjoy."
Master storytellers are blessed with flair. They might have a natural talent, but they work hard to fine-tune the skills and methods that draw listeners into their tale.
You can learn how to tell stories with the power to transport a child to worlds beyond their own, too. You don't have to have a huge audience -- your own kids will do.
Are you ready to move from a beginner with a tale ripe for sharing to a seasoned and successful storyteller? Start with these steps.
Choose a tale. Traditionally, storytellers gleaned their tales by listening. You're more likely to find your inspiration at the library than around a story circle.
Choose a favorite book, folk tale or fable that "touches" you. Take your time as you browse through all the droll and humorous, traditional fairy, tall tales, myths, and modern stories. You can always share an anecdote from your life.
A good story has a clearly defined single theme, a well-developed plot and characters your listeners can relate to. You'll be able to add vivid word pictures, sounds and rhythm as you share the adventure. Your story should end with a moral or lesson for your listeners to take with them.
Know your audience. You have a message for your listeners and a tale to tell. As you learn more about your audience, you can adjust your presentation so they understand the story and hear the message. The audience can be your own kids, it doesn't have to get complicated.
Get ready to share. Read through your story several times until you're comfortable with the flow and meaning.
Know the story. Map out a basic story line. The beginning sets the stage and introduces the characters and conflict. Within the body, the conflict builds up to the climax. The end shows the resolution of the conflict. Master storytellers say that you shouldn't memorize the whole story, but that you should know your first and last lines by heart.
You can retain the original flavor and vigor of a story by noting the phrases which repeat throughout the work. Include those phrases, unusual words and expressions as you share the tale.
Practice telling it -- to your mirror, friends, the cat and anyone who will listen. Use your imagination to make the story come alive as you prepare.
Once you have the basic structure, you can add the glitter and substance to your scene and characters. Here are some of my suggestions.
Bring your story to your audience -- literally. You might need to rearrange a room to bring the kids closer, or use a backdrop or hangings to create atmosphere.