What stories or experiences with literature have inspired you? What stories did you fall in love with as a child? Perhaps you remember oral stories told to you by a parent, family member, friend or teacher. Most of us have powerful memories linked to stories: sometimes because they helped us to explore an imaginative world, sometimes because they remind us of special people or special times in our lives, sometimes because we connected in a very personal way to what we have read.
I am hoping that you will take a moment to reflect on some of your powerful memories about children's literature as a part of your first blog entry. Choose a story and a story telling experience, and then share with us what made this a memorable event. Was it the language of the story? The theme? A memorable character and/or situation that you connected with? The illustrations? A deep emotional or personal connection? A favourite author? What was happening in your life at that time that made it particularly poignant or meaningful? Did hearing/ reading a story motivate you to try other stories or authors? In reflecting on this previous experience as a teacher candidate, why do you think unpacking the social and cultural contexts might be important to our thinking as teachers? How might it connect with our goals of encouraging and promoting literacy?
I have two very strong memories linked to story telling. The oldest is remembering how my mother would tell stories to me when she tucked me into my bed at night. The stories came from the quilt on my bed: each piece of fabric had a story about my family. I would pick a different fabric piece each night and ask my mother to tell me about it; she would begin by saying where the fabric had come from, and then tell me something about the person or what it represented. I don't remember the specfics of each story: sometimes it would be about a dress my mother had worn when she was younger, or a story about me, when I had been much younger, prompted by a piece of red flannelette or ginham. My most powerful memory is of the warm and satisfying experience of being under a cozy blanket while my mother told stories exclusively to me. In a family of five children, having time with my mother made me feel very special.
The first novel I remember (and have re-read over and over) is called James and the Giant Peach
by Roald Dahl. The fantastic characters were so much fun, but perhaps more important was the courage of a small boy faced with what seemed to be an overwhelmingly hurtful life without love. I remember reading in the small attic space that had been converted into a bedroom for me, so engrossed in reading subsequent chapters that I read with a flashlight under the covers rather than go to sleep. I made remarkable pictures in my head of the creatures: the centipede in particular-- aided by the voices I created as I read... the tone, tenor and speaking patterns that helped define the nature of each character. To this day, I have not gone to the now popular movie because I don't want to give up the images and feelings I have about these long favourite story characters. I've read all of Roald Dahl's books: reading James and the Giant Peach
got me started on an author that kept me entertained and engaged for many, many years. When I began teaching, James and the Giant Peach was the first story I chose to read outloud to my students: and I believe my love and passion for the story was conveyed to my students too. On more than one occasion I can recall being "talked into" reading more chapters... one day we spent an entire afternoon reading from the novel without realizing it until the final bell rang!
Here's a memorable part of the story, right near the beginning that really caught me and engaged me from the very start:James
: What are they?Old Man
: Crocodile tongues.James
: Tongues?Old Man
: Long, slimy crocodile tongues boiled in the skull of a dead witch for 40 days and 40 nights. And, the gizard of a pig, the fingers of a young monkey, the beak of a parrot and three spoonfuls of sugar, and then, let the moon do the rest.
Can you imagine the image of the crocodile tongues, wriggling and moving in the bag that James is given? It still gives me goosebumps when I read those words and imagine what those tongues might look like in the bottom of the bag...