Magical Storytelling

Photo credit: Kathleen Barry

“She lit a candle, and story time began.”

This might not be an exact quote, but reading Lucia Gonzales’ The Storyteller’s Candle, I was reminded of the magic that can be created.

I love storytelling. But in fact I am but a beginner storyteller. I try to get better with practice. But often I am like the mom of a child I knew. He complained to his mother: “Mom, when you tell stories they go kind of like this: “ moving his hand in a straight horizontal line. “I like stories that go like this:” moving his hand like a roller-coaster track!

Though I am not an excellent storyteller, I am a great story reader. Chooser and reader. As a first grade teacher for many years, I prided myself in choosing books that spoke to the inner concerns of young children. I started the first day of school with “The Way Home”, about a baby elephant that doesn’t leave the beach when his mother bellows at him to come, and starts home alone in the dusk. Only to find a trail of bananas guiding his way back to his faithful mama.

Since leaving first grade, one thing I truly miss is my read-aloud time. These were the books I read aloud to my first graders, slowly over many days, every year:

My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards. These chapters were old radio shows in England. But naughtiness never goes out of style, and you can blame it all on the little sister! My first graders thrilled with suspense and horror in each chapter. She went in the water with her clothes on! She cut up all the fabric! She got lost at the fair! She (with her friend “Bad Harry”) ate up all the birthday trifle! And that’s not all…

My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett. A great early novel. We would create a poster of everything Elmer Elevator packed in his backpack, in anticipation of when and how he might use it to get past the animals of Wild Island. And the final scene- sheer laugh out loud bliss.

Wolf Story by William McCleery. An oldie that a parent bought for me when it was re-issued. A story within a story as the little boy begs his daddy to keep telling installments of the saga of the ferocious wolf Waldo trying to steal poor Rainbow the hen. The best part is how the dad asks his son what should happen next, and his answers always surprise us.

Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White. A classic, needs no introduction. Long and with lots of vocabulary to explain, but worth every minute. Keep the Kleenex handy for the end.

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron. Warm and wonderful family stories, and so genuine. Poetic imagery- lemon pudding like a night on the sea, dinosaur teeth and catalog cats will delight you. Read all the sequels, too!

You see how briefly I annotated them? I am showing such restraint- I could talk for hours about my favorite read alouds.

“And she said, make a wish. And when I blow out the candle, it will come true.”

My wish is for you to find just as wonderful stories to share with the children in your life.


6 thoughts on “Magical Storytelling

  1. I trust your taste. I never heard of the British one and it sounds like fun. Stowing all of this away for story time with my grandbaby. I received a video of him reading yesterday. He is 11 months old and he is turning the pages of a book and literally exploding with laughter and joy on each page. He is reading a book about a Panda bear who does not like donuts…It makes me laugh just to see that. You are right picture books are wonderful. I sometimes even read them to my middle schoolers. A favorite of mine, which you could read in elementary easily, is The Sweetest Fig. Would love to hear you read one of those aloud:)


  2. I believe the students are never too old for a read aloud. I love reading to them, and they especially like it when I cry too at the sad parts. I caught your wish and thank you.


  3. I am really glad I read this slice. The titles you shared are gifts, thank you. I believe I am a story teller and try to tell “Roller coaster” stories. I read aloud to my fourth graders, but rarely tell them stories, now I fell I should. Thank you.


  4. Storytelling to my students is my favorite time of the day. My fourth graders always beg to have a read aloud book. While some students just like to listen, we get some good discussions out of it too


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