Children and Storytelling
a guest post by Marilag Angway
If there’s one thing I learned about kids after teaching them for a few years, it’s that they remain to be the best audience a storyteller can have. Teenagers and young adults. Children in their pre-teens. Children as young as three and four years of age. You couldn’t ask for a better set of people to tell stories to.
But let me backtrack a bit and give you a glimpse of why I think this.
For the past few years, I’ve been an elementary school teacher for three and four-year-olds. I’ve also, on occasion, subbed for upper grades, and gotten my feet wet on the essence of a creative writing class for children ages 11 and up. And let me tell you, trying to keep kids entertained enough so that they listen to you for minutes at a time is hard work. Having to do it every day for hours at a time is practically like climbing a steep mountain path. It’s rewarding in essence, and I do believe being able to make a difference in at least one student’s life is what keeps most of my colleagues and myself going.
The last couple of years found me dealing with preschoolers. Now, I don’t have a little voldie of my own, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but for those of you who do have little voldies, you’ll understand that preschool is no joke. The little ones are everywhere. One little voldie (and yes, this is a sobriquet I use to refer to every potential Little Voldemort) is the equivalent of five regular school kids. One little voldie makes every bit of a difference.
Now imagine that some of these little voldies start to cry. Sometimes they’re sad about a toy they cannot play with, or about a friend who doesn’t want to play with them. Sometimes they’re sad because they’ve just woken up from a nap and out of a nightmare (this has surprisingly happened more times than I expected). Mostly they’re sad because they miss their parents. Or they could just be trying to test you (and believe you me, they will test you).
That’s when I sit them down. That’s when I tell them stories. That’s when I act the stories out as best I can.
I tell them stories about princesses who never smile, about farmhands who finally make them laugh. I tell them stories about massive giants and towering beanstalks, about goats and trolls under bridges, about magical lamps and wish-granting djinn, about the princesses and queens who’ve slayed dragons with swords and tamed tyrants with words. I tell them stories about girl pilots and hackers, of boy pirate captains in space, about cyborgs and robots and all the things over the rainbow. I tell them stories about monsters in different parts of the world, merpeople and trickster spiders, of Aswang and tikbalang, of raccoon and fox spirits, of that elderly Russian woman who flies around in a mortar and pestle.
They lap it all up. And it’s because they listen. At the end of the day, a few of them will act out parts in the tales; I had one occasion where a girl pretended she was a robot princess with a functioning lie detector (I kid you not). Some will remember the giant that lived in the banana tree (which, I’ve once explained to a confused mom, was part of a story I’d made up, which was based on a Filipino legend). Some will recall—perfectly, may I add—the long name of the boy who fell into the well. Sometimes, they might even tell the story their own way. Sometimes, they’ll tell it to their parents.
Occasionally, they’ll sit and stare at you during lunchtime, and suddenly a clamor of “Read us a story!” begins to rise up, quelled only when you laugh, take a deep breath, and begin with “Once, there was a…”
And it’s a beautiful thing.
You know the stories you tell them have had some impact, and for better or worse, that’s something they’ll probably remember growing up. At that point you know you’ve made a bit of difference.
So yeah. Tell your children stories. They’re the best audience around.
This, in and of itself, is why I write stories for children. This is why I am thankful that publishers like Dreaming Robot Press exist, and eternally grateful that they'd let me tell my stories in print. The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide anthology series has been churning up lovely works of fiction by awesome storytellers, ones that I'm sure those imaginative little voldies will lap up with abject eagerness.
Marilag Angway started her foray into science fiction and fantasy sometime in the early ’90s by reading books written by females for females. She had no idea that these books were far and few at the time, and feels lucky to have had the opportunity to be inspired by female authors to think big and never stop imagining. Her various fantasy and science fiction scribbles can be found in publications such as Ticonderoga Publications, Rosarium Publishing, Bards and Sages Publishing, Hadley Rille Books, and Deepwood Publishing, among other places. You can find Marilag’s bookish and writing and randomy ramblings at http://storyandsomnomancy.wordpress.com.
Marilag’s story Rela is in the 2017 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide. You can back it on Kickstarter now at: http://kck.st/2bC2KTV