5 Reasons Why We Need Storytelling in Schools [Part 1 of At Least 2]

This wonderful blog about why poetry is NEEDED in schools has been circulating on the internet.  It’s true, I love it, I agree with it.

…And all the way through reading it, I kept wanting to replace the word “poetry” with “storytelling.”

So I did.

Because nearly every single thing the author wrote applies directly to – in some ways I’d argue applies even more to – storytelling.

I’m so glad Elena Aguilar wrote the piece, and that Edutopia and Think360 Arts (among others, I’m sure) are spreading it.  With deep thanks and full credit, and apologies if need be, to Ms. Aguilar, here (below) is a version with the words “poetry/poem/poet” replaced with the words “storytelling/story/storyteller” throughout (and a very few other modifications, which I’ve indicated along the way with italics).

Otherwise (disclaimer!), it is word-for-word Elena Aguilar’s writing (with slight edits for punctuation and spacing).  I’m grateful for her articulation of the power and benefits of poetry – in schools, and pretty much everywhere – and hope that she would understand and appreciate this exercise of applying her well-worded assertions to the art and practice of storytelling, as well.

For it’s every single bit as true. Here we go:

Let me start with this: We need storytelling.

We really do. Storytelling promotes literacy, builds community, and fosters emotional resilience. It can cross boundaries that little else can. April is not National Storytelling Month (no such thing exists, sadly). So be sure to bring some storytelling into your hearts, homes, classrooms and schools. Here are five reasons why we need storytelling in our schools.

Reason #1: Storytelling helps us know each other and build community. Storytelling can be used at the start of the year to learn about where students come from and who they are. (Many storytellers blog; see below for a sampling of some who often address storytelling in classrooms.) Storytelling can allow kids to paint sketches of their lives, using metaphor, imagery and symbolic language to describe painful experiences, or parts of themselves that they’re not ready to share. Storytelling allows kids to put language to use – to make it serve a deep internal purpose, to break rules along the way (there are few “rules” in storytelling and what there are can be bent and tweaked in any number of effective ways) and to find voice, representation, and community.

Reason #2: Because storytelling is expressed aloud, storytelling is rhythm and music and sounds and beats. Young children — babies and preschoolers included — may not understand all the words or meaning, but they’ll feel the rhythms, get curious about what the sounds mean and perhaps want to create their own.

Also, storytelling is an embodied form of expression – voice, face, limbs, torso, posture, movement, gesture – all are integral parts of the practice of storytelling. Very kinesthetic, and great for all learners who thrive with that!

It’s physical and full-bodied, which activates your heart and soul and sometimes bypasses the traps of our minds and the outcome is that storytelling moves us. Boys, too (– writes Ms. Aguilar, though boys sure don’t have a monopoly on needing physical and full-bodied experiences!).

Reason #3: Storytelling opens venues for speaking and listening:  much-neglected domains of a robust English Language Arts curriculum. Think spoken word and story slams. [Here’s the Edutopia article about poetry slams for kids that was linked to in the original article – there is sadly a dearth of story slams and other organized storytelling events for students. Massmouth in Massachusetts carries out story slams for high schoolers]. Shared in this way, storytelling brings audience, authentic audience, which motivates reluctant writers (or most writers, for that matter).

Stopping here for now.  Reasons #4 and #5 will be in Part 2, in my next blog post.  There’ll be more resources, too – stay tuned!

Interested in more?  Check out this sampling of online resources:

And remember: Watch for Part 2 and maybe 3, coming soon!

* FLASH! (And GULP!!)    😯

I’ve committed to participating in this year’s “Blogging from A to Z Daily Challenge” for the month of April. (Remove Sundays [a day of rest, right?] and there are 26 other days in April, one for each letter.) It’s going to be nuts for me, I’m pretty sure (I may have to BE committed somewhere at the end – or partway through), but hopefully enjoyable or at least interesting for you.

Have you subscribed to my blog yet? You can do it at the top of this page: Scroll up and where it says “Subscribe to blog via email” on the right – fill that in with your name and email address, and these musings about storytelling will pop into your email inbox. Go ahead, “follow” me – give it a try!

And I’d love to read any of your thoughts, questions, or comments you’d like to share.

Thanks for reading – Pam