For my current di ss. chapter, I reading a set of texts addressed to mothers and elementary educators on value of storytelling. Most of these books, written in the first few decades of the twentieth century, were written by women who were active in the kindergarten movement in the United States.
And they are serious about their stories and storytelling! They believe children naturally hunger for stories; that stories have a powerful influence, for better or worse, upon a child's moral, ethical,and spiritual well being; and, that it is the responsibility of adults to provide a healthy diet of stories for children, because otherwise the consequences can be quite dire...
For instance, here's what Katherine Dunlap Cather in Educating by Story-telling (1918) has to say
"Sometimes, as a result of such reading [cheap adventure stories], boys run away from home to fight Indians or turn pirate, and many a lad has begun a career of lawlessness ending in crime, who with a little direction might have been an individual of value to the world" (Cather 33).
I laughed aloud when I read this passage. Was pirating even still an option for American boys in 1918?
Reading it did make me wonder, though about how we view the influence of stories today. I don't think our culture would credit them with THAT much power... it seems that the rhetoric of violence and crime is associated with television and video games. Among middle class educators and families, reading is valued highly, although the emphasis is more on reading books and not on storytelling per se. I think there is a difference. The books I'm reading are much more focused on teaching people how to tell stories and how to help children to act out stories. In fact, perhaps my another question is what role does storytelling play in our culture now? And how does it differ from reading stories?