Story telling

I think stories are crucial to creating meaning to the world around us. What comes to mind when I think of stories are the private, intimate, family stories that define us as individuals and families, as well as the larger stories that an organization, country or all humans share.

My best memories of stories are the very simple stories my grandmother told me about life in Ukraine. Some of these are horrifying (finding dead bodies while plowing the field during Stalinist times) and some are very sweet (losing the only pair of shoes a group of siblings shared). These stories define my family and are what make us different from all other families. I know my dad tried to record my grandmother telling these stories, but he used some sort of micro-cassette recorder and so we lost the voice… somehow I can remember the smell of my grandmother’s Brooklyn apartment and how everything looked, but I can barely remember the sound of her voice. Like all children, I took it all for granted at the time, but now I wish I could remember just a few more stories and could hear her voice just one more time…

As a mother, story is also a great thing to share with my children. I have read everything from Goodnight Moon to The Lord of the Rings aloud, and we all still remember some of the memories associated with the story itself and with the telling. Goofy things like me trying to sing the elves’ songs in the Lord of the Rings and the time the lights went out on Christmas eve so we took turns reading Dickens’ The Christmas Carol by candlelight are all family stories around the story.  Kids really love hearing stories about themselves, and with five children in our family there are plenty of great stories to share.

This leads me to digital story telling. Sometimes, a picture really is worth a thousand words (is that the right number?). And audio can also definitely augment a story. Sometimes, however, digitalization can ruin the story by eliminating the need for the reader/listener to visualize or imagine the setting, characters, or plot. We read The Chronicles of Narnia many times when my children were younger, and they were disappointed by the distortions of the movie producers. Digital storytelling can be more vivid, but it can also make the listener or viewer more passive than they would be otherwise. So, honestly, I would rather hear a great story told by a great storyteller, in real life, than watch a youtube video (not that I haven’t watched a million youtube videos…). One thing about a book is that you can control the pace (read it all in one night, or drag it out for weeks), but a movie version is going to fit in a two hour time slot.

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