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Yet, with all the interest that is manifested throughout the country, story-telling is not doing its greatest, most vital work, because so little thought is given to the selection of material, so little study to the response of children who hear the tales and the effect upon them. Before even half of its possibilities can be realized, those who tell stories must know the story interests of childhood and must choose materials, not only because they are beautiful in theme and language and embody high ideals, but because they are fitted to the psychological period of the child who is to hear them.
They must realize that the purpose of story-telling is not merely to entertain, although it does entertain, but that in addition to delighting young listeners there must be a higher aim, of which the narrator never loses sight.
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Every tale selected must contribute something definite toward the mental, moral, or spiritual growth of the child, just as each pigment chosen by an artist must blend into the picture to help make a beautiful and perfect whole. The golden age of childhood will come and fear that young people's tastes are being vitiated will die out when parents and teachers realize that much of the noblest culture of the.
Story-telling planned and carried out to fit conditions will help to solve many of the problems that confront educators today. Besides developing the emotional nature and giving moral and religious instruction, it will intensify the interest in history, geography, nature study, manual training, and domestic science, awaken an appreciation of literature, art, and music, enrich the child's powers of discrimination, and teach him to distinguish between the cheap and ephemeral and the great and lasting.
It will help to eliminate much of what he considers the drudgery of school life and give him information that will fit him for broad, sympathetic, useful living. This does not mean that the teacher is to do all the work, thereby fixing children in habits of idleness, nor does it mean the addition of an extra subject to an already overcrowded curriculum.
It simply means leading the child to do things for himself because of the incentive that interest gives. It means illuminating the formal subjects and sending pupils to them with greater eagerness. In order to accomplish these ends, story-telling must be unmarred by creaking machinery, and it must be sympathetic.
The narrator must rise above the level of a mere lesson giver and approach the plane of the artist, which he can do only by giving an artist's preparation to his work. The old-time raconteur swayed.
Category 1: Stories for Young Listeners
He put heart and labor into his work, which gave his words a sincerity that never failed to convince. So too must the present-day narrator believe in the power of the story and in the dignity of his work, and he must choose material with thought and judgment instead of snatching it up indifferently, thinking that any story will do if only it holds the interest.
The racial tales should be given freely in the psychological period to which they belong, but not the racial tales only. There is much modern material close to presentday life and conditions, without which the child's education is not complete, and it must be classified and graded. This entails reference work for which the non-professional has neither time nor opportunity, and to this fact is due much of the valueless story-telling of today.
Experience with hundreds of parents, teachers, and workers with children has brought conviction that a belief in the value of story-telling as an educational tool is sincere and general, but that sources of classified material are not available to the average child leader. It is partly to meet this need that the present work is planned. RHYTHMIC PERIOD IF the work of the narrator is to be of real value, he must have a knowledge of the story interests of childhood, for otherwise the talent of a Scheherazade, careful preparation, and an extensive repertoire will fail to produce the desired results, because a narrative that deals with mythical heroes cannot make a lasting impression upon a child who craves animal and primitive wonder tales, even though it be written in language and style suited to his understanding.
The heart or framework of the story must be made up of events that are fraught with interest in his particular period of mental development, and must introduce personages with whom he would like to companion, and whose movements he will follow with approval, pity, condemnation, or rejoicing. Under such conditions the boys or girls or dogs who contribute to the action of the tale are not strangers out of a book, but mean as much to him as the people and animals he knows, and because they do mean much he lives the tale. It becomes part of him and he of the story. His emotional nature is stirred, his power of evaluating is strengthened, and some of the foundation blocks of character are laid.
Naturally the question arises, "How is one to know which tales to choose, when there is such a wealth of stories and such a diversity of interests P Is there any rule or guide to keep the conscientious but untrained worker from the pitfalls and show him the right road The little child, the one from the age of about three to six, is interested in familiar things. He has not yet reached the period of fancy during which he wanders into a world of make-believe and revels with fairies and nixies, but dwells in a realm of realism.
His attention is centered on the things and the personages he knows, -the mother, the father, dogs, cats, pigs, horses, cows, chickens, and children of his own age, - and consequently he enjoys stories and jingles about these creatures. He chuckles over the accounts of their merry experiences and sympathizes with them in their misfortunes, because they lie close to his interests.
This is why Mother Goose has been and is beloved of little children. The rhymes do not introduce griffins and ogres and monsters that must be seen through eyes of fancy to be seen at all, but abound in. Mother Hubbard and her unfortunate dog, the crooked man and his grotesque cat, the pigs that went to market, and the old woman in the shoe lie close to his world because he knows dogs and cats and pigs and kind old women, and therefore the rhymes and jingles that portray them are dear to his heart.
Especially fascinating in this period of early childhood are stories that contain much repetition. The repetition strengthens the dramatic element and helps to make the pictures vivid, and the child loves to experience again the thrill he felt upon first listening to the tale. Stories introducing the cries and calls of animals are much loved at this period. The squealing of the pig, the barking of the dog, the clucking of the hen, and the quacking of the duck give charm to a narrative because the child has heard those sounds in his own garden, in his own dooryard, and along the road, and knowing them, is interested in them.
This is the secret of the success of many kindergarten tales that fall far below the requirements of a good story. Often almost devoid of plot and lacking in suspense element, still they hold the attention because of the animal cries and calls they contain. The little hearer chuckles as the baby pig squeals, the mother pig grunts, or the dog barks, and listens delightedly to what, without these cries and calls, would not interest him. This too is why the racial tales fascinate today just as they fascinated five hundred years ago. They have a clearly defined plot that of itself would hold the interest, they introduce familiar characters, contain much repetition, and abound in animal cries and calls.
But he should not make the mistake of following this rule too literally or his efforts will result in failure, because children live under widely different conditions. The boy of the city slums, whose horizon extends only from his own row of tenements to the next row up the street, will not be held by tales of cows and sheep, because he does not know cows and sheep. His knowl'edge of four-footed creatures is confined to dogs and cats and an occasional horse that goes by hitched to the wagon of a fruit or vegetable vender, and the tales that mean something to him are those of animals of his world, and of children.
Many a settlement and social worker has learned the truth of this through sad experience.
A most gifted story-teller in a New York settlement house gave to her group "The Ugly Duckling," and gave it exquisitely too, but it meant nothing to the children because they never had been in the country. A barnyard was as remote from their interest as a treatise on philology is from that of a Finnish peasant. They did not know ducks and geese and chickens, and consequently punched their neighbors and grew pestiferous during the recital of a tale that would have entranced country children. The same mistake was made by a professional story-teller who gave a coyote tale to a group of Italian children.
They never had met this "outcast in gray," never had shivered as he howled in the night, and the story brought no pictures before their eyes. They were inattentive and disorderly throughout its ren. Yet that same afternoon a college girl with no special training in story-telling told them of a lost nanny goat, and they sat fascinated. In the first instance the trouble was not with the children but with the narrator. She knew much of technique but little of psychology and could not hold the children's attention, while the other girl, possessed of far less native ability, entertained them because she understood the story interests of childhood.
The narrator must have, not only an understanding of the psychological periods and interests of childhood, but a knowledge of the environment of the children with whom she works. There is a wealth of sources from which to draw for this early period. Often it is necessary to adapt material, because many a tale whose framework is suited to little people is told in language beyond their understanding.
Written for adults, yet it is so universal in its appeal that the lad of six listens to it with as much sympathy as his father or mother. The account of the affection of dog and master for each other, the pathos of the separation and the joy of the reunion, touch him as much as they touch his parents, and to receive it from the lips of one who feels and loves the tale will make him kinder to dumb animals and gentler to the aged.
This is true of many another story that is the creation of an artist. The characters in them are living, breathing creatures, the kind that if met in real life would arouse affection and awaken both laughter and tears, and whether these stories are told in monosyllabic language or colored by fine rhetorical effects, they strike the tender places and appeal to the best.
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When the child meets Nello before the altar of the cathedral in Antwerp, kneeling in front of a painting by Rubens and fondling his dog, he instinctively feels that this boy is not a stranger living in a far-away land and speaking a foreign language, but that he represents all the orphaned children in the world, and that his affection for his dog is the same tie that binds every other child to the pet he loves. So too with Monarch, the majestic captive of Golden Gate Park.
He is not just a bear, a creature larger and more ferocious than many other animals. He typifies wild life caged, and the boy who has pitied him in listening to the account of his tramp, tramp, tramp about the pit, never quite forgets that proud but eternal unrest, the ever present longing for the white peaks and the pines. One need not fear that putting these stories into simple language may be deemed a sacrilegious act, or that telling the plot of a masterpiece will kill delight in that masterpiece itself.
Goethe's mother, sitting in the firelight in their home, gave her boy tales from the old poets, creating in him a desire to read that helped to make him a profound student and master thinker. And the twentieth-century child will doubly enjoy reading a beautiful piece of litera. Workers with little children should be ever on the alert, seeking stories that deserve the name of literature, with plot and characters that will appeal to their small charges, because such stories mold a child's taste and give a key that will unlock doors into the great treasure house of art.
Whenever the mother or teacher or librarian reads a story that is a literary gem, let her analyze it and determine whether or not, if told in simple language, it would delight a child. The oldtime narrators who molded national taste and ideals did this constantly, and the great story-tellers are doing it today. Sicilian peasants, for instance, have a knowledge of the classics that amazes the average American.
The stories are pictured on the market carts, those gaudy conveyances that brighten the island highways from Catania to Palermo, and the conversation of these simple folk is colored with allusions that would do credit to a professor of literature. Most of them cannot read, but they know the plots of Jerusalem Delivered, "Sindbad the Sailor," "The Merchant of Bagdad," and many more of the world's great stories. They heard the tales in childhood, and their fathers before them heard them from the lips of men who loved to tell them, and so they have become a national heritage.
Let us do as much for the children of our land, that the men and women of the future may have a noble culture and more splendid possessions than their parents have, and let us do it in the worldold way, by story-telling. He delights inplaying he is some one other than himself, in pretending he is doing things beyond the range of his possibilities, and because he craves a larger experience he craves also fanciful, imaginative tales in which he may have those experiences.https://volunteerparks.org/wp-content/dejukaca/1805.php
He knows that bees sting, that the dog has a cold, wet nose, that the cat lands on its feet, and the squirrel holds its tail up. He wonders about these things, but he is still too limited in experience and in mental capacity to give them real theoretical meaning.
Consequently he enjoys the wonder tale, or, as some authorities term it, the "primitive-why story. Primitive man through fear and fancy personified the forces of nature and gave them human attributes, and because they were less tangible than the creatures of jungle and plain that figured in his earliest fables, his mind visioned them as fantastic beings, sometimes lovely and sometimes grotesque, fairies and goblins, destructive monsters and demons, and avenging giants who preserved him from that which he feared. Thus origi The child enjoys these tales.
The narrator can gather this material with comparative ease, because the science of ethnology has brought to light many of these tales from primitive literature, and not a few of them have been put into collections available to child workers. The fairy tale that grew out of the life of the race is also rich in material for children of this period.
By "fair tale" is meant that type of story usually associated with the names of Grimm, Perrault, and Bechstein. Little people delight in it, and will listen to it again and again.