Sometimes when you’re conducting storytelling workshops,  you might encounter children who are really really reluctant to get up in front of others and speak. And yet, public speaking is such an important life skill to have!

I really dislike it when they insist on reading their stories or even having the paper version near by.

I always tell myself in these kinds of situations to just chill, RELAX! It’s no skin off my nose if they tell the stories with their papers!

And yet it’s a crutch!

I know they’ll do a terrible job telling if they’re glancing at their papers every two seconds, or even just reading off them. They won’t have learned to stand on their own two feet and recall a story from memory. They won’t have realized that in storytelling there’s no such thing as perfection! Because you don’t memorize the story! So they won’t have learned the art of spontaneity! And the art of dramatization!

Even as I write all these things it occurs to me how very valuable an experience the storytelling workshops really are!

I’ve even been doing these exercises with my grandchildren.

Every once in a while, instead of me telling them stories, I have them get up and tell a story they’ve recalled. Even the three and four year olds do their best to remember a story. Sure they stand and fidget and they smile shyly as they tell them, but they do it! And when they’re done we show our appreciation.

The trick is, when they stumble, and yes, they will stumble, instead of grabbing for a paper, all I do is coax the story out of them with a few gentle questions.

Sometimes I’ve dealt with kids who are so nervous of telling, they actually begin to cry. And yet they have had some wonderful stories to tell!!!

With them, I say, “Come and stand right beside me.” And somehow they take courage from my proximity and as I coax the stories out of them, the tears slowly vanish, and they focus on me and the story, not the audience.

They get through it!

Imagine the sense of accomplishment they must feel! Imagine the courage it gives them to tackle other new endeavors!

Sometimes they can be so quiet, speaking just above a whisper. In this situation I do a relay. I let the kid speak the story to me, and then I tell it to the group.

I often give them a day of dress rehearsal, and then the next day it’s on for good.

And because it’s important to have something at stake, a bit of pressure! I offer up a prize for the best storyteller. (Usually it’s a DVD of me storytelling.)

In the past I’ve had teachers ask me to excuse some of the students because they were suffering anxiety.


What the heck is the world coming to?

Why are kids so anxious?

I don’t care if they are horrible at it, the simple act of getting up in front of your peers and speaking is good experience for the real world!

This is what I tell the kids. I say that you need to push yourself sometimes to do something that is uncomfortable and scary. If you don’t, how will you ever grow?

Alhamdu lillah, in the end, I often get every single student to tell a story. Some of course are better than others.

And it often amazes me how sometimes it’s the kids who struggle with English, or who are the most shy, that win my little competition!

It’s so good for them to shine in such a way!

It’s such a confidence booster!

One time I found out that one of the kids I was leaning towards winning always won at things. And it was interesting because it occurred to me that maybe I should not let this kid win this time, maybe I should give it to someone who ‘needs’ it, and then part of me thought, geez, why not???

Should I really penalize a kid for being good at things and confident???

No way!

So I let the kid, and I was glad.

I come at kids with a completely blank slate. And the winners are always about proficiency.

Recently, after a workshop, the kids groaned, “Awwwwww!” when they realized it was my last day with them.

And they asked, “When will we ever see you again???”

Oh they were so cute.