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  • Writer's pictureKevin Cordi

Myths about Youth Storytelling Part One

by KEVIN CORDI on OCTOBER 25, 2010

I have met teachers and even storytellers that are confused or wonder about how to get kids to tell stories or if they are interested in the process. After coaching students for over 24 years, I want to share some misconceptions about youth storytelling. (Part One)


By Kevin Cordi National Youth Storytelling Association

Kevin and Judy Sima Co-authored this book on youth storytelling

There are many myths that we have allowed to emerge concerning children and young adults and storytelling. These need to be offset so that the real learning can begin.

Myth #1—YOUTH DON’T WANT TO TELL STORIES This could not be further from the truth. Youth crave stories. They are in continual need not only to listen, but also to have a voice. Storytelling provides a venue so that students and children can be heard. I can still remember the response of Lacy Chaffin coming back after presenting at the National Storytelling Conference. She said, “You know I was nervous about going to see all those professional storytellers. However, the nervousness soon went away when I realized that these storytellers really listened to me. I was used to being asked to just go away. They really listened to what I had to say.” Kids and young adults want to know they belong and that their voice matters. Storytelling helps them find that voice.

Myth #2—YOUTH WON’T LISTEN TO STORIES Youth often listen more than adults. A child and young adult is just beginning to learn to filter their hearing. They hear everything we say. They hear the “you are too little to do this” or “don’t both me, I’m busy” but they also hear the “Wow! Show me!” and the “I took some time off for you today.” Students also hear each other. I have been mesmerized, as I have watched students from age six to eighteen sit spell bound listening to each other telling stories.

Myth #3—I AM NOT QUALIFIED TO TEACH YOUTH HOW TO TELL STORIES Youth have openness and understand when they realize that you want to help them explore their story making ability. It is one of the few journeys that children and adults can explore together. When a child learns that you have a desire to share and explore with them they will easily excuse any lack of knowledge or ability. In truth all you really need are:

1. A love for stories 2. A curiosity to teach/learn 3. An open minded atmosphere of sharing 4. A willingness to accept and invite new directions and change

One of the key elements for successful youth story sharing is ownership. Students must feel they belong to the telling experience. Once this is established, a true sense of commitment will begin.

Myth #4—YOUNG KIDS WON’T SPEND THE TIME TO LEARN THE CRAFT Just ask Jessica Carlton of Chicago and Dawn Escobar of Hanford about the hours they spend in storytelling. Jessica has had intensive training with Elizabeth Ellis and Donald Davis and is often featured in storytelling festivals. Dawn works diligently, sometimes 25 hours a week, just to help run her storytelling troupe. I have watched over 300 students tell at a Tellabration, the national night of storytelling. I have watched students spend more time studying their stories than their own homework.

Myth #5—TEENS ARE NOT INTERESTED IN STORYTELLING Teens are more than willing to tell stories, however their preparation as tellers cannot be the same method that you use in elementary school. Teenagers have their own stories, however, that does not mean that they will not tell elementary tales. It simply means they don’t wan to be talked down to but instead be encouraged for their natural curiosity. I have watched teens produce two audiotapes in storytelling, work with the Chicken Soup Company, and so much more. Once teens know that you will treat them as teens, they will soon be involved in teen telling and story sharing.*Be sure to check back soon for part II of this article.

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