Have books, televisions, and the internet replaced the role of the storyteller in this society?

Before the days of the radio, tv, and written words, Storytellers were who we gathered around in the evening for entertainment, to learn morals, to learn the history of the community, and of the travels of visitors that may have been passing through. Stories can also be used to teach science, math, language, social studies, art, and survival. In our current society, there seems to be a simplifying of these stories to suit the english reading levels of small children, making these stories solely for youth and not for everyone. For me the subject of culturally relevant storybooks is a double edged sword. While I appreciate the art, I do not appreciate the simplification of the stories. While I agree that it is important to preserve the stories, I think they should be documented in a manner where they are intact.

I read several story books in class that day and I did not find any satisfaction in any of them other then the story that was read to us. I found the books to be empty of reference to where the stories come from, with some lose reference through the art indicating their origins. As an educator I think I will have local Elders and Storytellers come in to share and to incorporate local knowledge into the lessons and to the school experience.

image from:http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/C-3PO

4 thoughts on “Have books, televisions, and the internet replaced the role of the storyteller in this society?”

  1. I agree! A lot of the stories stated that they were “retold” rather than authored- but retold should not be watered down!

  2. I agree: it would be much more effective to have a storyteller in the classroom than to use a ‘retold’ children’s book. I think it’s possible to find a children’s book with deep ideas that hasn’t been watered down – like the story that was read to us in class – and if one is found then I can see its place in a lesson. But broadly speaking, I’m not sure I see children’s books as the best choice for a high school classroom where students should be trying to think deeply and analytically.

  3. I agree – some of those retellings seemed like they were paying lip service to cultural relevance – giving the basics of the story, but not conveying anything of what makes the story powerful & meaningful & lasting. Context is so important, and it also takes a lot of skill to translate the power of an oral narrative into written form. I agree that asking a storyteller to come in would be better. I think you’ve highlighted a major problem with using picture books this way: they’re based on the idea that these stories are for very young children, and that often means that the writers aren’t trying to do justice to the complexity of the source material.

    I actually have a lot of respect for children’s literature at its best. But I also think that many picture books authors just go through the motions of presenting a story, figuring the kids won’t know any better. I think any teacher who wants to use children’s books in a high school classroom has to be prepared to do a lot of work weeding out books like that, because they can do a lot of damage.

  4. Very honest comments here, much appreciated. What about bringing in a children’s book and breaking it down with students as a way for them to analyze what is missed or assumed or research the background information and have they analyze how they think the story should have been told? Might be a good way to put everything in perspective… could even throw in an analysis of some Disney movies – i.e. Pocahontas.

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