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Let Me Tell You a Story, Let Me Sing You a Song
To many parents and those involved in the care of children, Doug Lipman represents the re-emergence of a dying art form: Storytelling.
Doug started working with children in the late '60s at a state mental hospital. There he found that singing with the children created a real connection between himself and his charges. At his next position, in a school for emotionally disturbed 9 to 14 year olds, Doug had his first experience storytelling.
Children at this school came from all over the Boston area, therefore outdoor playtime prior to the day's classes was essential until all the children were present. The Assistant Principal told stories to the children in a class room when outdoor time was impossible due to poor weather.
One day the Asst. Principal was out sick, it was raining, and Doug was called upon to conjure up a story for a classroom of children. As luck would have it, Doug had listened to a storytelling record the night prior to his first experience. Then and there he saw what he now calls the classic storytelling trance -- glazed over eyes and opened mouth with a slightly drooping jaw. Doug knew that an additional asset could be added to his singing.
He decided the best combination of work for him (to still be connected to children, but to also let his interest in storytelling and singing thrive), was to work 2 or 3 half days at a nursery school, and perform and run workshops the rest of his time. He did this for the next two years.
It was during the mid-seventies that Doug made the full switch to storytelling/songster.
He started performing in public schools and concert halls, facilitating workshops for parents and child care providers, and researching and writing stories and songs. Doug says that he needs all of these different facets for his work to be nurtured and grow.
Doug feels that everyone has the skills to be a storyteller. We all have oral language which is the first type of communication that young children learn.
Listening to a story, as opposed to having one read to him or her, allows the child to construct images in their own mind. Not everyone's images are the same, therefore the listener becomes an active participant in the construction of the story. Images can be visual, auditory, kinesthetic (involving movement).
Storytelling ends with an image that a person receives in their mind--the bridge is oral language.
Spoken language includes the tone of your voice, pitch, volume, pace, facial expressions and posture. On radio storytelling programs, it is estimated that only 15% of a story's meaning is conveyed by words, the rest of its meaning is expressed through tone and ambience... the music of the voice.
People often have difficulty telling a story because they have forgotten to imagine the story prior to telling. That is why it is easier to tell a story you've already heard.
We also spoke about how stories can help children deal with problems. Doug stresses that it's important not to use stories to moralize and teach lessons. If your intent is transparent, it won't work. When you say, Once Upon a Time... you've opened the door to the listeners heart, and any information that is conveyed is received in an undefended mode. When you need to explain or "lecture" a child, they filter the information received. A story is taken in fully and unfiltered. Doug goes on to say that you should use the strength of storytelling to allow the listener to make their own connections and interpretations--make it a love gift to the child.
Doug feels that children need and want to be read books also, but he points out that storytelling is a more natural form of communication. It is a more powerful aspect of oral language, it's alive in your mind, allowing you to communicate emotional nuances.
When you tell a story, there is nothing between you and the child, the whole force of your personality comes through. Important stories, which children love to hear, are stories from your own experience--one of the most powerful gifts you can give to a child.
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This page was last updated on Friday, November 28, 2003
Copyright©2003 Doug Lipman