presents our

Storyteller DVD
Series for Children


In the news...

----   Let's Tell Stories co-founder Helen Lesnick was featured on KUSI Television.

---  Excellent review in the April 2009 issue of School Library Journal:

Storyteller’s Favorite Fables (Folktales from Around the World Series). DVD. 62 min.

PreS-Gr 4–In the first production by Let's Tell Stories [formerly Organic Kids Company], a group of moms who seek a “healthy alternative to cartoons and animation” for their children, four celebrated American storytellers share some of their favorite fables in front of small, diverse groups of youngsters. The stories all feature animals or things which are given human qualities and illustrate a moral lesson. Diane Ferlatte tells “Croc ’n Hen,” a Bakongo tale from Africa that teaches that we are all different, yet we are alike, and “Bone Day,” her twist on Aesop’s “The Dog & the Bone.” Ferlatte is captivating, using her body, face, and voice to tell the story. She draws the audience further into the tales by inviting them to participate with her both vocally and physically. Leeny Del Seamonds tells “Yuca,” a bilingual version of the traditional Russian tale (“The Turnip”), and “Medio Pollito,” a bilingual retelling of the Spanish legend about the origin of weather vanes. She includes repetitive phrases and a cappella singing to engage youngsters. Angela Lloyd tells “Yes Ma’am,” based on a traditional African-American call and response song, “Hand,” an original work told in English and Spanish, and “Sunbrella, another original piece. Navajo storyteller Geri Keams provides an endearing retelling of “Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun,” an adaptation of the traditional Cherokee story of how the sun came to be in the sky. The camerawork is excellent throughout. For the most part, the children demonstrate natural responses to the storytelling. This is an excellent tool for storytellers and the next best thing to participating in live storytelling for children.–Stephanie Bange, Wilmington-Stroop Branch, Dayton Metro Library, OH

----  Feature Article in the "Livingston Parent Journal",  March 2010

The Art of Storytelling by Let's Tell Stories Co-Founder Helen Lesnick

Do your children like stories? Did you know that in addition to being entertaining storytelling plays a critical role in their learning and language development? From the beginning of history, people have told stories to teach, entertain and connect with others. The original way people learned was one person told another person a story. There was direct and personal contact between the storyteller and the listener, between the teacher and the student.

Every time someone tells a story, the story changes because the story
happens in the moment of the telling. It happens between the storyteller and the listener. Storytelling would not happen without the listener. A movie goes on with or without an audience. Without a listener, the story stops. This imbues the listener with a certain amount of power. The listener knows she is not inconsequential. The listener is active. The storyteller reacts to the listener and the listener responds.

For younger children, stories help to master recall, sequencing, and grouping, all necessities before they can move on to concrete operational thinking, which is characterized by logical reasoning. Children learn to speak long before they learn to read and an oral foundation in language and literature is crucial before they can take the next step. Significant research has been compiled over the years on the correlation between oral storytelling and literacy and reading comprehension.

The pursuit of literacy has emphasized the importance of reading to children, with the assumption that more is better. The belief is that the earlier and more parents read to their children, the better off and more literate they will be. However, this is not necessarily true. Recent research has shown the most important characteristic for developing literacy is enjoyment and the biggest problem we face is not an inability to read, but a lack of interest in reading.

Most educators now recognize that literacy is much more than simply reading and writing. Literacy is being able to use language in a meaningful way: i.e., thinking, speaking, listening, being able to communicate wants, thoughts, needs, feelings, and being able to use language to solve problems and complete tasks. Because oral storytelling employs many of the same literary conventions and grammatical features as in written form, it is an excellent segue between an oral foundation and literacy. Children will often seek out the stories they heard in text form. Their familiarity with the stories then aids them in reading the stories for themselves.

Research has also shown that having children retell the stories they have heard is a valuable tool in helping children recall and comprehend the stories more effectively. This then assists them in creating their own stories. Questions can help children recall more details. Eventually they will internalize these questions and be able to ask themselves the questions to guide their own recall.

Another important benefit of storytelling is that stories help develop imagination. Each listener must imagine the imagery and characters the storyteller describes for herself. They draw on their own connections, helping them make the story meaningful and personal. Children understand stories through their own life experience. This gives children the ability to control their understanding of a story. Research has shown children link the situations and characters in the stories to their own cultural associations, putting themselves in the situation of the characters. "If I were her, I would have done…" or "…I would have felt…"

Studies have also shown that lack of imagination makes children prone to failure in school and more prone to violence. They are less able to imagine alternate ways of behaving and have less resources to constructively resolve conflict.

Stories draw the audience into another's world, in an unthreatening and welcoming manner, allowing the audience to feel safe to identify with the character and/or situation. This allows the audience to go on the journey with the character, face the struggles with the character, and experience the resolution to which the character comes. Through the stories, children experience new and different situations and stories show them different solutions and possibilities of action.

The power of storytelling comes from their appeal to our emotions. We learn best when our emotions are affected. It is not nearly as effective to tell a child that lying is wrong as to take a child through the emotions of the story, "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." At the end of the story, when the child hears the plaintive cry of the boy, "Wolf, Wolf!" as the wolf really is attacking and eating the sheep, the child can truly understand, in an intellectual and emotional way, the consequences of lying.

Another benefit of storytelling is that telling stories from diverse cultures promotes tolerance and appreciation of other cultures. The similarities in world mythologies throughout history points to our shared humanity, increasing understanding of other peoples who may appear to be very different from us.

It is important to note that storytelling is not just for professional storytellers. Oral storytelling is an effective tool for parents to use with their children. This can be as simple as a parent recalling an event that the parent and child shared. Parents can also chose either to learn a well-known story or make up one of their own. The safety and security of the home environment is an excellent place for young children to feel comfortable to develop their own stories or act out stories they heard or made up themselves. This will help them develop the confidence in themselves to seek additional experiences outside the home.

Storytelling is a time-honored tradition, whether it's one generation communicating to the next or a culture sharing their communal experiences among themselves. In our technological age, nothing can replace the basic human need to communicate directly with another person our understanding of the world and our place in it. Storytelling is the quintessential medium to fulfill this basic human need while drawing us together in the human community.