Every year during the first week of February, the Society for Storytelling hosts National Storytelling Week. Throughout the week there are a multitude of events all pertaining to this ancient art that dates back thousands of years, spanning across many cultures. In honour of National Storytelling Week earlier this month, one of the Give a Book team members recalls what storytelling means to her.
Being read to as a child is one of my earliest memories of storytelling. Books were a bedtime ritual and the Large family books by Jill Murphy were a popular favourite. Once my sister and I were older, we would make up stories together, each centred around a different theme depending on the day. I always looked forward to rhyming Mondays and sweetie Saturdays. On long train journeys, my parents would read to me to not only keep me entertained and quietly occupied, but through hearing these stories they were leading me into a world of imagination pulled from the words on the page.
Once I started primary school, I eagerly anticipated the last 30 minutes of the day when our teacher would read to us. Everyone was quiet once the book was opened and our focus was only on our teacher’s voice. ‘Bills New Frock,’ ‘Quirky Tails’ and Thief!’ were books that I distinctly remember having an impact of the classroom. Literature is one of the best ways to help understand something without experiencing it yourself. These stories that I heard and was gripped by built my understanding of the world around me and in doing so strengthened my love of reading.
“nothing is safer than the sound of you reading out loud to me.” Rupi Kaur
There’s a difference and a comfort in listening to the written word as opposed to reading it oneself. The former is something that listener has the luxury of being done to them, as opposed to actively engaging with the words on the page. Humans told stories before we started to write them down and that is why we find such warmth in hearing a voice, even overhearing conversations. The inaudible chatter from the restaurant below our hotel on family holidays in France was always hypnotic to me.
Storytelling to me is the orator’s journey, with me as a passenger. They take the weight of the story while the listener glides alongside. I am not surprised why audiobooks are thriving so much as a way for us to search for the comforts and cherished rituals of childhood.
Many of our projects at Give a Book, especially the ones in prisons such as Family Days, Making It Up and What Happens Next encourage parents to read with their children and create stories together. This has a huge impact on the prisoner and families alike and is crucial in aiding rehabilitation. These projects understand and value the importance of storytelling as a creative activity for families and to maintain these bonds despite difficult circumstances.