Telling a story without a book as a safety net can seem very scary, but it’s a wonderful way to share a story. So if you have a favourite Barefoot fairy tale or animal fable or goddess myth here’s how to go about sharing it with an audience of children:

  1. Don’t try to memorise the story!  Don’t try to learn all the words. Just consider the shape and sense of the story, then share your own version of it as it comes to you in the moment.
  2. If you’re telling to very young children, use as much repetition and rhythm as you can. Invite them to join in. Most of the best known fairy tales and nursery tales have a repeated line that we all remember. Remember ‘All the better to eat you with, my dear!’ from Little Red Riding Hood?
  3. Change the story!  If there’s a bit you don’t like, a bit you can never remember, a bit you don’t think makes sense, a bit you think is a diversion, a bit that doesn’t sound right in your voice, or a bit you just think you can improve, then change it.  It’s fine.  There is no one true version of a story. Every teller changes the story as they tell it, and that’s how stories stay alive.
  4. Let your audience make the story their own. Are there places you can let them introduce their own details: a mealtime when they can suggest food, a section when a character is getting dressed, a simile they can run with (‘she was as mad as a…’)?
  5. Use silence.  This is where you as the storyteller have much more power than the writer. Stop at the dramatic bits, and leave a little gap for everyone’s imagination… Those moments of silence, where everyone is holding their breath, wondering what will happen next, can be the most powerful moments of all. This works with cliff-hangers, like the moment when the tiger nearly eats the merchant in Never Trust a Tiger, or the wolf nearly eats the lamb in The Hungry Wolf.
  6. Don’t moralise or try to test kids.  Share a story as a gift, not as a teaching aid. If there are lessons to be learned, let them be absorbed subtly, not forced down the children’s throats.
  7. Trust the story. This isn’t about you and your performance of the story, it’s about sharing the story, and if you love the story, then the audience will love it too.
  8. Of course, everyone does it differently. So ignore all of the above and tell stories in your own way if that suits you and the story better!

Now go and share stories!

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