Article: Storytelling Beyond Fear

Stage Fright

One hurdle storytellers face is stage fright.  The thought of storytelling (using eyes, facial expressions, voice, gestures and body language) in front of others is often met with resistance.

There are some steps you can take to help.  First, get to know your storytime materials.  Then consider some ways to jazz them up.  Go with your instincts and have fun with this.

Here’s a few ideas.  Can you add a voice, a gesture, a puppet?  Can you add emotions with your facial expressions and body language?  Can you make or bring sound effects?  Can you make the story more interactive by giving your audience repetitive pieces to act out?  Make some choices and practice until your storytime is sharp.  Doing this will go a long way in dispelling stage fright.

Follow my preparation strategy in The Magic Carpet Handbook.  Just remember, all you need to do is focus on your mission to make reading more fun.

Looking Ridiculous

Mr. Tom Brushes His TeethAnother big storytelling fear has to do with adults not wanting to look ridiculous.  Use a puppet?  Are you kidding?  Be an actor?  What if I appear foolish?  An adult who plays pretend?  That’s not me.  Those types have loose screws.  Right?  Wrong.

What’s the highest paid profession?  Lawyer?  Doctor?  Investment Fund Manager?  Nope.  The highest paid professionals are Convention Speakers.  Speakers who possess the ability to motivate huge groups get paid huge amounts of money.  How do these folks inspire others?  They tell stories.  They play pretend.  They use their storyteller’s toolkits.  And, they allow themselves to look ridiculous at times to illustrate a point.

Why?  Because stories work.  Great storytellers have great power.  Showing is much more compelling than telling.

And besides… who cares if you look ridiculous!

Where the Air is Clear

Have you watched Sesame Street lately?  If you teach and/or care for young kids, I encourage you to check out Sesame Street’s most recent popular videos on YouTube.  You’ll be inspired.

Listening:Errly LiteracyThe Children’s Television Workshop is highly respected in our culture.  It’s revered.  Cookie Monster, Ernie & Bert, Oscar the Grouch… amazing.  Talk about powerful!  How did those puppeteers get to be where they are?  How did Sesame Street become an extraordinary teaching institution?  By being afraid of playing pretend and looking silly?

Your Role

Ok, now let’s talk about you.  You’re a parent, teacher or caregiver in the life of a small child.  You want to make reading more fun for them.  Your job is to inspire kids with a passion for learning and discovery.  If ever there was a time and a place in a child’s day where acting silly was appropriate (and necessary), it’s storytime.

Your mission is to elevate storytime, right?  Is it better to tell children how awesome books are or show them?  If you are serious about making reading more fun, it’s time to get serious about being ridiculous.  Let yourself experiment with your storyteller’s toolkit.  Engage in pretend play with your kids and use puppets (especially during storytime).

There are many great resources on these pages to get you started.  Here’s a great place to begin. 

Check out the ways storytime benefits young children here.