As a child, I used to listen to and read stories from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. I was introduced to these stories by my grandfather. I remember when he used to narrate them, I would listen to him spell bound. After I grew up and realized the cultural and spiritual significance of these epics, I have learnt to value the life lessons that those stories taught me even more.
Now, as a learner while working with children, often a question comes to mind: what is a story? What’s the purpose of a story? Are all stories worth telling children? What is the connection between story and life?
My fascination with stories and the way they are narrated has led me to explore storytelling in different languages and countries. Everywhere stories are celebrated. They all have common principles, values and connection to nature and people. While I agree that stories are meant to be enjoyed, there is a lot one can learn from them, when you choose to read and listen to the right stories.
For instance, take the Panchatantra story, ‘Four friends: Mouse, tortoise, crow and Deer’. This story is about friendship between these animals and how they help each other in a difficult situation. It is an interesting and enjoyable story that allows a child to both question it and find the answers as well. In real life, aren’t the crow and the mouse, predator and prey? How come they are friends in this story? How did the author explain this strange relationship? In real life too, can we expect a friendship, a bond, an understanding between two diametrically opposite individuals or beings? How will such a relationship grow?
Along with asking such questions, this story also offers a good opportunity to listen, identify, explore, observe, learn problem solving, planning, and dramatization. Above all, it conveys the spirit of community.
I believe if a story is good and comprehensive, it will remain with the child for a long time. It keeps coming back to the child, helping him/her make meaning, decipher the life around and understand the world.
The author is an educator with four years of experience in a primary school till March 2021. He did his PGDLT (Post Graduate diploma in Learning and Teaching) with IAAT (I Am A Teacher, Gurgaon). He was mentored in reflective practices by Smriti Jain (Co-founder IAAT), in child development and assessment by Tapaswini Sahu (Academic Dir. IAAT) and in Language by Dr Sonika Kaushik in 2016-17. Currently, he is associated with a private school in Gurgaon. He can be reached at [email protected].