Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Show Me a Story, by Emily K. Neuburger

*** Warning: Excessive amount of enthusiasm contained in this post. ***

Honestly, I wasn't sure if Show Me a Story was going to fall into the "gift book" category for me. You know the type - the kind you flip through and then set to the side. (If you're my friend, please don't ever gift me with a gift book. They aren't really real books, you know.) I was pleasantly surprised by this title though. No, I was more than "pleasantly surprised." I was delightfully enthralled.

Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children's Storytelling is a book that encourages and inspires teachers, parents, babysitters, grandparents, etc., to encourage the art of story telling in their children. Despite the fact that this book looks suspiciously like it would belong on a crafty person's bookshelf, I would say that it can be utilized by even the non-crafty among us. (This was also a huge relief. I'm not at all crafty. Not that it would hurt me to be more crafty. But you can't squeeze blood from a turnip.) I opened up to the Introduction and read the following:

"Storytelling is the perfect, most nourishing food for growing minds. When you think about what you remember of the concepts and lessons you've learned in life, the ones that come to mind tend to the attached to stories. This is because they engaged your mind and helped you make sense of the world. The activities and projects in this book are not just for children; they are also meant to inspire and encourage the adults who love, teach, and care for them. With these projects and this approach, adults and children can be happily hooked into a world of storytelling." (page 11)

As you can clearly see, I had no choice but to immediately fall in love with this book and everything else that Emily K. Neuburger would have to say. I began to flip pages and drink in her thoughts and ideas about developing the art of storytelling in not only my children, but myself!

See, I'm not a crafty person. See supra. I only like playing chase and pretending something about Angry Birds for ever so long and then I get kind of, well, bored. (True confessions.) I'm not a mother who likes to really play with her kids. But I absolutely love reading stories together. (Are you so shocked?) The idea of finding ways to tell each other stories in a playful sort of manner just rocks my world and opens up all sorts of possibilities for positive and fun interactions with my kids. I am HYPED about utilizing this book and the ideas inside of it in our home.

"Stories give children the opportunity to think about morals, lessons, and conflict resolution. With practice, children begin to search for the moral at the end of the story, and some will even structure their own stories around a specific message. Children who listen and tell many stories begin to recognize trends in human behavior. Their perspectives expand, and they become more critical, observant thinkers. They begin to consider in broader terms what it means to be helpful, mean, practical, hopeful, spiteful or considerate. Creating characters - which teaches that multiple perspectives exist at every moment - gives children invaluable tool for understanding others and for finding their way in the world." (page 13)

Before child #3 arrived on the scene, I was pretty good about making up stories with my oldest son in particular. He loved "making stories" with his little animals. But I got busy and we let that habit fall by the wayside. I've missed it and wondered how we can get that time back and rebuild some of the storytelling skills which have gotten lost in the busyness of life.

I've also been thinking a lot about the differences between stories with blatant morals (e.g., "Polly is Afraid of the Dark") verses a more polished and well-told story involving darkness (e.g., Prince Caspian, The Dark Island). Both stories can address the same issue, but a beautifully crafted tale will stick in our minds and hearts long after the last page has been turned and the book has been closed. Instead of always harping on what is right or wrong (e.g., "You need to be obedient...") it would be far more pleasant to teach my children lessons through fun, interactive play. I've been horrible at this of late and Show Me a Story has given me a shot in the arm of creativity and hope for the way I can better enjoy my time with my children.

As the book's subtitle suggests, there are 40 craft projects and activities to "spark children's storytelling." (And, let's face it, it can also help spark adult story telling as well. A great side benefit, no!?) For each activity, Neuburger suggests the youngest age which any given project might be suited for, the time frame required to make the project, and the number of people that the particular activity is suited for. Of course, she also includes materials necessary and tips for how to complete certain of her ideas.

Because I'm not a craft person, I won't follow her ideas specifically but I will be putting some of these ideas into practice in a more generic fashion. I'm really excited to start a "Story Chest" filled with a variety of items (some of which I'll make based on ideas gleaned from this book) and other household "stuff." Mostly I'm just really excited because I feel like Neuburger gave me a way to play with my children (and my children do love to play with their parents!) in a way where we can all enjoy the pleasure of each other's company and be silly and have fun.

I think this book is awesome. I truly do.

Thank you, Storey Publishing, for sending a copy of this one my way in exchange for my honest thoughts which I have honestly expressed. (THIS BOOK IS SO AWESOME!)


*carrie* said...

Very interesting, especially because I just spotted a book at the library with a very similar title/premise.

Very funny about gift books. I know what you mean! =)

Queen of Carrots said...

That sounds fun. I'll have to look for it.

We have tried doing a "story-telling club" around here, which everybody loves except for the part about WAITING TURNS.

Katrina said...

Sounds great. I am so very un-crafty...I always need a little help coming up with projects. And anything that relates to storytelling automatically gets extra points from me.

Shonya said...

Love the ideas and glad you are encouraged. I'm not crafty either, but we do a lot of storytelling around here. The favorite reoccurring characters are "Fred the Hop Toad", "Leisel the Lamb" and "The Blue Putt Putt". :) My two oldest are great storytellers to their younger siblings--who knows, they may one day publish some of these stories!

Emily said...

Dear Carrie,

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful, engaging review of my book. I am so pleased to hear that you feel so enthusiastic about it, and I wish you many hours of storytelling fun.

My best! Emily

Annette Whipple said...

I'm so much more crafty than story telling-y, despite my love for story. This sounds great!!

Barbara H. said...

I can see why this would appeal to you! Looks like a great resource.

BerlinerinPoet said...

No gift books for Carrie, check.
This one sounds so cute! Loved reading this post.

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