Interestingly, my storytelling to children often happens in the bathroom. While that might sound strange, it really isn’t. It’s me, sitting on the bench with three or four children, squished in close. It feels good. We’re waiting for the child on the potty, who is far more interested in hearing what story Jennie will tell.
It wasn’t always this way.
My storytelling started almost accidently during lunchtime at school. Lunchtime is chatty and fun. We learn about each other, share what is happening. We talk about important things, like if girls can marry girls, or what happens to dogs when they die.
This is why I love teaching.
And then, a child asked me something about my childhood. The first thing that came to mind was a story of me as a child in school, and old Dr. Tyler the Peanut Man. I told the story to a captive audience. Storytelling became a highlight of lunchtime. There were many things in my childhood and adulthood that became classic stories. Many.
The storytelling grew branches. There are true, It happened like this… stories, and pretend, Once upon a time… stories. Fairy tales are popular, especially “The Little Red Hen” and “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
One day in the bathroom, the waiting line was long, so I made up a story on the fly, incorporating all the children who were there. It went something like:
“One day, John was in his bedroom late at night. He heard a sound outside, opened the window, and saw Elaine and Terry. What were his friends doing there under his window at night?”
The story went from there, where all the children were included. Now, children heard every word, because they were part of the story. So, I made sure I used ‘big words’, like massive, interrogating, or decipher. This was big, a captive audience and the perfect opportunity to expand their thinking and introduce them to new words. Yes, chapter reading does this, but it’s a whole different ball of wax when the child is part of the story.
How do I know these bathroom stories make a difference? Ellis. She’s three-years-old. Last week when everyone in the bathroom was asking for a Jennie Story, she interrupted and said she had a story. Ellis wanted to tell a story. This is what she said:
“Once upon a time there was a boy named jack-o-lantern. He lived in the woods. There was a scary bear in the woods.”
Jennie, just squeeze my finger if you get scared.
“The dinosaur was in the woods. He came and bit someone. A penguin came along and bit someone, too. The boy played and was just laughing. The light bugs were working in the forest, looking for the dinosaur and bear.” ~The End~
I couldn’t grab a pen fast enough to write down the story Ellis told. Not only was she fully vested in the Jennie Stories, especially those told in the bathroom, she was able to make up her own. That is remarkable. That is what happens when words and stories are part of school and part of children’s lives every day.
The more words a child hears, the better s/he will do in school.