This summer we read books to our granddaughter. As soon as we would finish, baby Georgia would push the book back toward us. The message was clear: “Again.” And so we would read it again. And again. And again.
This weekend I attended the National Storytelling Festival with friends. I’ve done this for close to twenty years. We hurried towards the tents in the crisp light of a mountain morning. We had come to listen. Again.
Storytellers stood up to tell traditional stories or personal stories or epic tales that have been told through the centuries. Listeners laughed and nodded as they recognized themselves in the least likely characters. When the tale was told, people wiped tears from their eyes, jumped to their feet, and cheered for stories known forever. People nudged requests toward tellers the a way a baby girl pushes a book back toward a grandmother. Again. We want the story again.
This is no idle pastime for me; I am a storyteller. My listeners do not wait for me in a white tent under a bright blue sky. They wait for me in a classroom. This morning they will wait to hear a story. Again.
They hear myths and folktales and fables. Every year I tell Shakespeare and Homer and Aesop. We tie folktales into the teaching of geography and history and science. Biographies introduce third graders to the leaders who have led the way for new leaders (and I remind them that some of those new leaders may only be eight or nine now). The narrative sweep of story deepens the majesty of the moment. I know that I am lining hearts with gold and deepening the well of image, allusion, and metaphor that will serve my students for a lifetime.
The most important thing I do on the first day of school is tell a story. Story builds community. The stories we tell become “our stories.” We reference them easily and characters become eccentric ancillary members of our tribe. We begin our year with a folktale. There is gold. There is grace. There is transformation. We are reminded there are stories worth telling. And living. Again and again and again.