Oral Storytelling in Storytime

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I had the great pleasure of watching a colleague perform an oral story earlier this week, and was mesmerized by how it captured my attention just as much, if not more, than it would have if it had come from a book with pictures. Oral storytelling traditions have been in existence significantly longer than the printed word, and it is through these stories that people learn morals, culture, and familial values. After watching my colleague yesterday, I was inspired to tell this story in my storytime on Tuesday, and I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome! With seventeen children under the age of 4, things were remarkably contained throughout the telling of this story. If you’re comfortable memorizing a story, I highly recommend this method of storytelling!

If you feel so inclined as to attempt an oral story in your own storytime, here are some suggestions that I have after presenting this story myself:

  • select a story that is repetitive enough that it is easy to remember, particularly if you’re not terribly comfortable with the idea of memorization

  • Folk tales and fables from Native American or other oral-centered cultures are great places to start

  • Remember that you don’t have to tell the story word-for-word. If you want to paraphrase, you can feel comfortable doing so

  • Try to incorporate movement or music into your storytelling. Shaker eggs, scarves, and bean bags are excellent options! These keep the children engaged both in your story and with the items in their hands

  • Use voices as you tell your story - this helps children imagine the activity that is happening in the story

  • Practice - a lot! The more you tell a story, the more comfortable you will be sharing it with others in a storytime setting

Oral storytelling can seem daunting at first, but I recommend giving it a try. You never know what might come out of it!

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