Stories and What They Become to Children:)

I have been doing story telling for children for a lot of time now, but never thought of writing about my experiences probably because it was always a part of my growing up. I am finally putting it down after being encouraged by wonderful people who are doing amazing things for children. So here i am sharing what amazing and wonderful wonder a child’s creativity is.
Over the years my story telling experience has been with different sets of children.
I remember my first story telling for our maids children back in class 7, when they came home for learning lessons. I would see the two kids just doing nothing in evenings and then got to know one of them was in nursery, the other in std 2 and the maid then one day asked my mother if i could help them with their lessons since they didn’t get much english exposure in the government school. I agreed and started my “tution” sessions (i liked the whole grown up feel actually!). After a week of figuring out “good mornings” and “good evenings” and almost two months of the elder one getting started on words, lines etc i noticed that the two kids looked fascinated by the whole lot of story books that used to lie around in my room. Since i never ever really got over my fairy tale, Enid blytons or classics i had a whole lot of them all over my room. The kids were always looking for a chance to see the pictures etc. So one day we sat down with the little red riding hood with all the big pictures and for an hour they just skimmed through the pictures. Then the elder one looked at me and asked me to tell them the story, which was a difficult thought because translating it to hindi and explaining it scared me. But the next day we started reading the story together, the elder one and me and the little one looking at us. We read through the first few pages with him repeating the lines after me and then getting an explanation from me as to what was happening and we did this for 3-4 days. The next week he picked up the book again and started to read the story (with my help on sentences etc where he stopped) and started to enact the story to his little sister. me and my brother became a part of the scene and suddenly we were 4 little children enacting the “Little red Riding Hood” and having a laugh.
At the end of it Manu(the boy learning english reading) started to talk about how the girl in the story could have lived in a different place and how he would have preferred a tiger to a wolf! It was probably nothing to me then, but i guess some where a little child was thinking on how he could change a story. Manu then started to bring his school text book of english for me to help with the stories in them. Although graphically not appealing he liked the idea of learning the words and knowing the story and then would imagine his own characters.
I still help such kids when ever am home on vacation etc and though am not home for too long a period i still see children warming up to the stories in their english text books once i start the process of reading them together and then enacting/almost enacting them.

Once i joined my under graduate course for law and would come back home for one month-two month leave periods i started going to the army schools to spend my time. Always too scared of what science and maths questions the grown up kids may ask i invariably went to the junior block. I love the way nursery to KG classes kids light up seeing those colorful books and nursery rhymes become so much more fun. These children have a way with words that you cannot understand initially but once you are into the story with them you realize its so much more. After the stories have been told i have seen the children draw the little princess’, the mouse or the tiger and in their own way imagine different stories and maybe expand their horizons about characters!
For kids between 1st to std 3 stories become a way of thinking. I have tried making the children draw, paint, write again stuff after they have read a story. Its always been amazing to see what the kids come with. Imagination takes wings and a lot of times children have given stories like cindrella etc a different look altogether in their depictions. With children from 4th standard onwards i have been able to do something what we call ‘lets write what we want”. Here i talk to the children about what they see around themselves and the class gets involved into the discussion when one kid talks about a little boy on the street or a girl talks about her little puppy she got home yesterday. Then we decide to write whatever we think about one of the chosen lead. So a little boy on the street becomes our protagonist and children then write a few lines, paras centering around him. They relate the topic to their lives, fictious characters etc. Some children bring in their noddy stories background too. What i do follow it up with is reading those ideas with all the kids around and more often i am asked by them to read mine. That leads us to at least trying and make children think about the world they see around themselves more closely. I do story telling twice or thrice with the kids in the school and for the month or two i am home i have had some very interesting ideas being bounced around.
For the grades above i try making them try and write stories how they want. I tell them they can write in any form, sentences, the flow doesn’t have to be what every book has and stories can take any form. So i have had some kids changing the form of the daily storybooks to what they want it to be and most of the times we have an amalgamation of so many ideas on scattered sheets of paper and yet so very resounding.
Story telling also has the power of creating a chain mechanism. We once did a story discussing session on what it meant to give with a happy heart and how we had to take out time for it.We decided that we will think about it and everyone had the chance to have their own hero for the story and what they thought was actually giving somebody something with a happy heart.The story could be developed in what ever the kids thought was a good form. This was with kids from 5-7th std. At a mess party i met a mother of one of the kids and she had a very interesting conversation to share. Her boy (Ryaan)was a part of the class and an avid reader. He was also a very strong participant in the story discussion class. After the whole discussion about giving he went back home and spoke to his mother asking if she gave her old clothes etc to the maid with a happy heart. He also asked her if like our protagonist in our story she knew she would do this even if there was a way of just disposing off the clothes and the old things in the house. That evening he spoke about his story with the maids son (who was his cricket buddy too) and the maids boy said to him, “i will give you my toffee if you want which i buy from the one rupee i get from home everyday, because you have been my cricket friend.” Ryaan came back home to tell his mother that this was giving with a happy heart and then started to share his stories with his cricket buddy every evening. Honestly i have so many kids that i probably don’t remember Ryaan’s story idea but i keep in touch with his mother and she tells me that he now helps his friend with his lessons.

When i help my mother with her kids at ASHA schools where she works with differently abled children, stories become a lot of things. For children who are able to comprehend things the characters in the books become something that they talk about amongst themselves. For a child with more serious nervous disorder he sits around and watches the books with a lot of attention and pictures are fascinating to them. Then when i try teach them simple words like king, queen, or maybe apple over and over again, some day randomly a kid picks up the book and points out to the king or the queen or the apple. For me their level of understanding is so beautiful that i still them stories while i help a kid make a castle out of the jig saw. Who knows what really is sinking into him/her and what it becomes to them.
I saw this movie “Happily Never After” which started with things like centuries after centuries the stories have had the same endings, the same lines and the movie itself does end on a happy note.I have made children see it and a lot of them do like what it says and love giving stories their own shapes. So for me story telling, reading,sharing are all such wonderful experiences that its never enough.
I was once asked, how do stories happen” and i said “people happen to us and then stories become as if they were meant to be…” So i guess what we tell out children, narrate to them become a part of them to keep…FOREVER…

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