Stories stick with us. We remember good stories because they touch our heart, tickle our funnybone or incite us to action. I started to remember some of the stories I loved when I was little and how they are still the kinds of stories I love. For example:
- Myths and legends tried to explain why the things in the world are the way they are. I loved stories like, “Why the Bear has a Short Tail.” Now I like storytellers like Stephen J. Gould and Oliver Sachs who explain the science behind the way things are.
- Miss Hickory was a story about an independent twig “woman” working hard to survive. Now I enjoy stories about real people and how they overcome obstacles in their lives.
- “Longshanks, Girth, and Keen” was a fairytale, with the typical repetitive pattern. In this tale, three people with unique talents help the hero solve problems. Now I love real stories about diverse people who develop their natural talents and sometimes work together and solve problems.
At night, before we went to sleep I would tell my little sister stories I had read and others I made up. I liked to tell them in a “serial” format with a cliffhanger or “to-be-continued.” She was a great audience because she laughed, cried and otherwise expressed emotions easily, so I could practice trying to be funny or scary, and so on.
When I worked with Latin American teachers, I would ask them to create “Big Books” from stories from their cultures. These could later be shared with their classrooms and used to inspire others to create books of their own stories.
When I work with teachers and children in Texas or elsewhere, I try to pick stories that are engaging and have a good message. Here are some of my favorite storytellers and the messages they offer.
- Frederick—Appreciate those who seem different
- Fish Is Fish—Appreciate who you are
- Swimmy—Use your talents to help your group
Ezra Jack Keats:
- A Hat for Jenny—Sometimes the good things you do come back to you. Also: Think creatively!
- Peter’s Chair—Embrace the changes that occur as you grow older.
- Anansi the Spider—People have diverse talents and, working together, can solve problems.
- The Stonecutter—Appreciate who you are. Also a study of “power.”
- The Cow That Went Oink—We can learn from people who are different from ourselves.
- One—Stand up for what is right.
- Zero—Appreciate who you are.
- Two—Learn to negotiate friendships
- Can I Play, Too?—Turn differences into a strength instead of a problem.
- Elephants Cannot Dance—Be proud of being you.
These are just a few possibilities. Think of what messages you wish to pass down to your children. Find a story that helps you do so—or—create a new story yourself!