Today I had the pleasure of one day’s work in a distant kindergarten. Story telling is rapidly becoming mydefault setting and I decided, since it was wet and uninspired but we were sheltered outside around a big table, to record the vignettes and stories which the children volunteered as I got to know them. I drew and then wrote about one girl and her absent brother and their matching raincoats, then about a scarecrow made by another boy at his church out of a spoon and an iceblock stick which he brought to share at mat time, about how one girl was going to go to Hawaii and swim with the dolphins, learn to surf and eat a coconut! Such diversity and colour and range! Soon they were writing their own books, adding illustrations and then dictating the words for me to write.
A story about one girl’s mother who disappeared into a ‘pink mole’ for three repetitive pages ( she drew her in pink, and then surrounded her in pink and disappeared her. I was relieved when she emerged, albeit with a broken foot and needing support from her daughter! Another wrote about a monster who ruined a party by throwing all the cupcakes up into a tree. One book was all spots, page after page, but getting less and less………’as she got tireder and tireder and tireder’. To my surprise on the last page was a picture of a very happy large person. And the girl dictated to me… ‘and so she had a spot of something to eat and was happy and not tired any more’. What a great sense of word play! Or maybe she was unaware of it?
I learnt every child’s name, was supported by the children to get them right and learn more about them and be introduced . The boys came later but once they saw what was up, they were into it as well. ‘This is a zoo, and here is a burglar, He wants to steal the laser light from off the sleeping elephant’s trunk, but the dog barked and the elephant woke up and the burglar fell off the zoo and smashed his head’.
I read the whole book to them at the end of the day and had their complete attention as they listened to a record of their whole rich and diverse community and looked at pictures they had drawn or helped me to draw. I left the book there for them, so I have no photos to share. I have never done this before quite this way but it was wonderful to have a sense of really meeting each child in their own context, occasionally having to explain what I was doing and asking if they could clarify what their play involved so that I could write it down, but mostly just taking what was volunteered and recording it, or simply recording what I observed.
Again, I am struck by how storytelling makes use of the theory of loose parts as much as play does. When the children have free range in their minds and memories of everything that they have ever imagined, heard, seen or read about, they are at complete liberty to assemble characters, props and landscapes in whatever way they like and the results are , as usual, creative, playful and delicious. I wish I had made a photo copy. One could even enlarge it and make it into a re-visitable document. I wrote it but it was very definitely ‘their’ book.