Guest Post: Lee Castledine on Storytelling for Young Children, Part 2

Today on Books and Adventures, we have the second part of a guest post by Lee Castledine, the Australian storyteller, youth librarian and secretary of the Australian Storytelling Guild.

You can find the first part of this post on Storytelling for Young Children using Props and Audience Participation here.

Props aren’t suitable for all stories and shouldn’t be used to prop up a bad story!  It is important to choose simple props that enhance the telling.  Don’t overwhelm the story by trying to use too many props or props that are difficult to manoeuvre, as they can distract the audience’s attention from the story.  Once you choose your props, it is important to practise using them until you are comfortable handling them without constantly looking at what your hands are doing.  Remember, it is vital to maintain eye contact with your audience.  Props can help a storyteller to remember the sequence of the story, but if you become distracted with handling the props, you can lose your audience.

Many storytellers are of the opinion that the use of books in storytelling isn’t true storytelling.  I agree somewhat, as there is considerable difference between story reading and the art of story telling.  But to me, and to many other children’s librarians, a picture book can either be read to an audience, or it can be used as a visual prop for the audience.  If a storyteller knows the book well, they don’t read it, they tell it, whilst showing the pictures to the audience to invite audience participation at certain parts of the story.

As a librarian, my role is to promote books.  Librarians who are storytellers find books that can be enhanced with the additional use of props and/or action or sound participation.  Props can include dress ups, puppets, musical instruments or an object that represents an element of the story.  I tell Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar using the book, a green and red pipe cleaner caterpillar, which children insert through the holes in the book, and a caterpillar puppet that reverses to a butterfly.   Another favourite for young children is Penny Dale’s The Boy on the Bus, where I use the book with several animal puppets being held up by children as the appropriate animal noises are sung.  The whole audience sing the repetitive phrases and animal sounds and I sing the rest of the story.

There are many picture books that can be used as audience participation props, especially those that include animals.  A few of my favourites include Jez Alborough’s Watch out Big Bro’s coming, with children acting out how big (“this big!”), Pamela Allen’s Fancy That, with children flapping their wings and making chicken noises, and Margaret Wild’s The Crooked Little House, with children clapping their knees as the house takes “one step, two steps, then it ran” and joining in the refrain each time and ending with a “Yippee-Yi-Yay!”.

The joy I get from storytelling with young children is seeing their enjoyment through participating, helping me tell the stories with props, and their delight at the manipulation props I use.  If you want to enchant your child audience, find a story that you love, think of how you can present it using simple props, find or make them, then practise, practise, practise.

You can find out more about Lee Castledine and her work here.

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