Monday, May 4, 2009

Keynote Address: Rob Cleveland

Rob Cleveland is a storyteller and actor who is a storyteller-in-residence at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. WOW. I was blown away by how motivating he is. He told some great stories and talked about how important storytelling is from a cultural perspective but also from a learning perspective. I ended up attending his session immediately following the keynote (the session I originally wanted was full) and I'm so glad I did.

Stories are the way cultures learn. Religious books are full of stories. If you forget your stories you forget where you came from, which can have disastrous consequences. Rob told us a story that comes from the sea gypsies near where the tsunami took so many lives a few years ago. But because these people, who lived on an island and had no other resources, had a story that related to the behavior of the ocean right before a tsunami, not a single one died. This is the power of storytelling.

When children listen to a story they are practicing their listening skills. Stories are the precursors to books for very young children. They provide lessons and morals that are harder to learn from adult lecturing but make complete sense when told through a story.

Rob is part of Story Cove, which provides free stories and videos. Registration is free to watch the stories and the books are available for sale. He is also part of Operation Storybook, which gets books into the hands of children.

I must say that I am so motivated to learn to tell stories that I've already checked several books out of the library, including the classic Storyteller's Start-Up Book by Margaret MacDonald, which Rob recommended. I feel storytelling is a weakness of mine. Since I work with very small children they aren't always ready to sit and look at a book as a group. But I've noticed they are very interested in flannelboard stories and stories they hear while they play.

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