"Once Upon A Time" Holly Barton Lopez


We are so happy to share with you "Once Upon A Time,"by Holly Barton Lopez. Holly was an educator for 25 years and also happens to be my Mother In Law. She taught art in ECE and grade schools in Colorado and then taught ESL in to grade school students in Massachusetts. She is a master storyteller who weaves inspiring and colorful tales that spark imagination. "Once Upon A Time" discusses the importance of story telling at home and in the classroom. We are grateful to Holly for taking the time to write for us!


Storytelling is what we all do...even in our sleep! It's universal to the human experience. We visually told a story on a cave wall 36,000 years ago. And as oral language developed, we told stories that were passed down from generation to generation in igloos, tepees, longhouses, mud huts. And we continue to tell them and retell them in a myriad of ways depending on our audience and how we might feel in that moment. We embellish, exaggerate, rearrange and simplify. We use our stories to teach, inspire, reminisce, make sense of the world, to escape, to entertain ourselves and others, to emotionally and socially connect, and on and on....so many reasons. But at times, we tell stories for no reason at all. We may simply find ourselves bringing them to life, slipping inside them and having fun not knowing where we're going. Most often it's because the children in our lives encourage us to go on this adventure with "tell me a story"! Before long, they are contributing to that story, adventuring with you into an imaginary world that you both create, and very often delighting themselves as they decide how that story should end! With no plan or purpose, the adventure you bring to life is not only creative with limitless possibility, but so much fun!

Even more fun is when children assign not only a name to their dolls or stuffed animals, but voices, as well, to tell their stories!

Moosie, a stuffed animal puppet, roamed through the woods of Alaska, often hopping on the #9 bus to visit our family years ago to tell of his adventures. He had his own unique voice of course, and a wonderful sense of humor, so we all talked, and before long he became a member of the family, and years later, a shared memory for us all.

As a parent, you find that oral storytelling kindles a child's imagination and frees the mind, is a risk-free adventure, an avenue for expressing feelings, and an opportunity for social and emotional connection.

As an educator, you find that oral storytelling is a remarkable introduction to reading and writing. Children who listen to stories, who contribute to them, and create them, become familiar with the structure of a narrative...beginning, middle and end; the elements of a story...main character, setting, problem, resolution; language skills, such as intonation, stress, and the rhythm of the language that will help them read more expressively and fluently; and the many forms of descriptive language that they know brings life to the story. There's joy in that familiarity and it makes the transition to writing so much easier.

 So, tell a story. Tell it to a child. Make it up together. Season it with expression and gestures. Invite children to tell their own stories. Suggest (though kids will often do this on their own that they assign voices to their dolls, stuffed animals, and puppets to tell their stories. And have fun!

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