Articles on storytelling, storytimes

"Storytime Model for Large Groups" by Amanda Williams, in Children and Libraries v5 n2, p. 27
Pithy article that gives a template for best practices in such storytimes, based on her dissertation work, which in turn was based on about interviews with practicing librarians. What she writes holds true in my experience, but it's one of those dogged old difficulties with programming: the joy is in the spectacular presence of one's self with one's audience. Boiling this down into a template of best practices drains all that interactive joy, even when Williams spells out that this is a "guide" and needs adjustment for specific situations. Good article, very helpful for new practitioners especially and for those without a performance background who might feel overwhelmed with large groups. And yet the heart of the storyhour, its basis in storytelling practices of audience interaction even when the materials themselves are entirely print-based and no actual storytelling is occurring, is missing from this piece.

"The Digital and Traditional Storytimes Research Project" by Lauren Collen, Children and Libraries v4 n3, p. 8
I wrote about this one before, but it belongs here too because, like the article above, it's missing fundamental ideas about storytelling that make the storytime what it is. In this case, there's an egregious gap in the comparative methodology, so that children being read a story by an adult in the front of the room (visually interacting with a real person) are compared to children sitting along side an adult looking at a screen (interacting with a screen). You could make an argument that the 2nd version decenters the classroom, as it were, but I think it's deceptive to say that. Of course children talk less to the screen, as the finding indicate. A screen doesn't talk back, and so is inherently less interactive for preschoolers than a live person talking to them. Again, useful for days and a really important beginning in the literature of children and media in storyhours, but it's missing an understanding of storytelling.

"Using technology for storytelling: tools for children" by Lesley Farmer in New Review of Children's Literature and Librarianship v10n2, p155 (based in the UK)
Nice list of tools and lesson plans, but the word "storytelling" is never defined. Yes, narrative is good for children (p.1), but what does children's own storytelling have to do with that? There are tons of questions to be asked about how, when, and most especially why children need digital storytelling. There are excellent arguments for this, that include going beyond the consumer-level attitude towards technology and towards producer-level knowledge, making children writers as well as readers of online texts. But those arguments aren't made here, so it reads as another in a long line of "cool" ideas without pedagogical justification.

"The Enchanted Imagination: Storytelling's Power to Entrance Listeners" by Brian Sturm, School Library Media Reseach v2, 1999
This article is outstanding in that is complements writings by storytellers about best practices in that artform with research on why elements like visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learning are relevant to this oral art form. Sturm's claim that listeners experience an altered state of consciousness is interesting and the research is persuasive, although I wonder how those who say we are "always telling stories" would respond. It raises questions too about how cultural expectations of attentiveness during story and other performances (theater, music, etc.) contribute to the experience of states of consciousness. If the researcher was looking for d-ASC (discrete altered states of consciousness) and the people are expecting the same at such events, then while it's still a compelling paper it's perhaps less surprising than it might be. Since no differentiation was made by age, this leaves many questions about how children are enculturated into such events.

I know others will argue that storytelling is the most natural method of communication, and to be honest I ride the fence on this one. Is it nature or nurture, and what does it mean if it's one or the other? Or both? I don't think understanding a storytelling performance requires nearly the same level of enculturation as, say, understanding a Beethoven symphony performance (don't clap at the ends of movements!).

Shirley Brice Heath in "What No Bedtime Story Means" found that there were different cultural norms concerning how books were read to children, how adults interacted with children about books, in different home-based cultural settings.

However, Sturm said he meant to raise questions, and he does so while also presenting some really striking findings about the "reader response" of storytelling audiences.