"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Telling vs. Reading: Story Siblings in Literacy

When I tell people that I am a professional storyteller, sometimes people ask, “What books do you read?” I quickly respond that usually I am on stage with a microphone and nothing else. I do not use books during the performance.

I do respect books and I use them in other ways: research and ideas.

The confusion between storytelling and story reading is the same confusion often found when distinguishing between siblings.

I am the big sister of the family and when I was in middle school I had a newspaper route. At the time, I wore glasses and long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. I was nicknamed “Smiley” for reasons you can guess. Often I barely delivered the papers by the 5:00pm deadline due to visiting with the people on my route. When Christmas came, I had a wad of cash in tips. I built trust that transformed into other moneymaking opportunities such as babysitting and dog sitting.

After a couple years, my brother took over the newspaper route. He was fast plus he could deliver the papers without all the ads spilling out. He wasn’t one to visit with the neighbors though the people could count on consistency. He also wore glasses and had short blonde hair, which some people confused for my blonde ponytail.

Finally, my sister took the newspaper route from my brother. She may not have had my social skills or the speed of my brother, but she had a different strength. Every Saturday I heard the rustle of sheets since we shared the same bedroom. I turned to see my sister getting out of bed. I turned to look at the clock—4:00am! She knew those Saturday papers were sitting in the driveway, ready to be delivered. Who knows what the neighbors thought of their doors slamming that early in the morning? Of course, they never complained of their papers being late.

In case you were wondering, my sister wore glasses and long blonde hair pulled back in a ponytail. With the sun not even up, the neighborhood had no idea of who delivered their papers—whether it was my sister, brother, or I.

The three of us had great praise from the people on our route. The name “Parkinson” carried respect.

Storytelling and story reading are also siblings. If people quickly glance at each art, telling and reading seem the same. With enough time and understanding, the differences stand out.

Some of Storytelling’s Strengths:
1. Encourages Imagination/Creativity
2. Promotes Memory Capacity and Story Comprehension
3. Increases Confidence in Speaking

Some of Story Reading’s Strengths:
1. Improves Grammar/Vocabulary
2. Supports Appreciation for Art and Literature
3. Enhances Writing Skills

One study that shows the positive results of these two similar yet distinct arts can be found in the Early Childhood Education Journal—“The Effects of Storytelling and Story Reading on the Oral Language Complexity and Story Comprehension of Young Children”. Click here for more details.

When piecing a storytelling literacy program, I debated on what the title could be since I did not want people to think that I read books as part of my performance. No matter how hard I try, there will always be misunderstandings.

Perhaps I should learn to smile and say, “Story reading? You must mean my sister. I am a storyteller.”

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Co-Chair of Youth, Educators, and Storytellers Alliance
(801) 870-5799

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