By Danielle Galvin
Boroondara author, storyteller and grandmother Judy Hubbard is passionate about reviving the ancient art of oral storytelling, and she says it’s a wonderfully easy and relationship-building activity to do with your kids.
In her new book, The Storyteller’s Kit Box: how to create and tell spellbinding stories to children, she gives the reader helpful tips, tricks, a ‘toolbox’ of ideas to get you started.
She believes storytelling helps develop a child’s imagination, as well as building language and problem solving skills.
And quite simply, it’s a lovely, simple thing to do with your child.
“My reason for writing the book, was that something I found easy and instinctive, and I had been doing with my children for years, other people I spoke to just couldn’t understand how you could do it,” she explained.
“You start with a bit of a structure, you involve your child and suddenly you’ll find the story tells itself.
“The response I get it ‘oh I am not creative, I won’t be able to think of something’.
“But I think what people forget, is part of the magic of storytelling, is the relationship building that happens between you and the listener and that’s just as important as the narrative.
“Whether you’re good on pixies and elves or intergalactic spaceships coming into your backyard, it doesn’t matter if the story is not brilliant.
“What really is special as an adult, parent, grandparent or carer is sitting with a child, sometimes on your lap, snuggled up next to you, or lying on a pillow and ready for bed, you have this beautiful, intimate moment when the relationship is about you and you’re in the story together.”
Ms Hubbard wants people to let go of any worries about their own creativity, and not to fret about the plotline or narrative.
“If the child says to you – tomorrow night I’d like a rocket story or a dinosaur story, I hop online and get a few ideas and get a few of the names right, the names of the dinosaurs up my sleeve or some rocket ship parts that I might not normally pull out of my memory and then you enjoy the storytelling more… because you think gosh I have done a bit of homework!
“But you don’t have to.
“There isn’t a right or a wrong story, there isn’t a bad story, because it’s unique.”
She says the more stories you tell, the better your stories become.
And quite simply, we all have stories to tell.
She recommends starting a story by inviting suggestions from your child, so that the story is tailored to their age, stage and interests.
Another suggestion is adding in some drama or action and atmosphere by using storytelling tricks of the trade like mimicry, voice volume, actions, body language and facial expressions, repetition, rhymes and that old favourite – onomatopoeia.
“Book reading is fabulous you can never replace pictures, but I think the thing I would like to encourage is to give people the confidence to let the phone go for a bit, just once a week and just use your own brain, and your imagination and your child’s imagination,” Ms Hubbard said.
“Because it’s that combination that is the magic and that’s when the lights go on and that’s when you see your child problem solving, thinking and being curious and you watch these little lights in their eyes, and you see awe and wonder.
“I see awe and wonder when you can surprise a child with a story that you have created, it’s yours.”
Another idea is a storytelling jar, with items inside that can help get a story going.
It gives the child a starting point by picking out some of the items, and you can ask them questions.
“You need a box of tricks in your head and that will enable you to be a storyteller,” she said.
“Our ancestors told stories years ago and we can all do it.”
There’s even stories she told years ago to her children who still vividly remember them.
It’s something they won’t forget.
During the Covid-19 lockdowns, Ms Hubbard wrote and published three books, two self-published books, The Storyteller’s Kit Box and I’m busy for toddlers, and My Grandma has pink hair with Five Mile Press.
She would also be delighted to read her books at kindergartens and to talk to young parents about oral storytelling for free.
To arrange for a visit, contact Judy directly at email@example.com or contact her through her website at www.judyhubbardstoryteller.com.au