REVIEW OF THE STORYTELLING KIT BY HELEN HANSEN
I think the thing that Helen Hansen does so beautifully with her Storytelling Kit, is to make the unattainable seem possible. So if you thought you couldn’t tell stories (like I did), this kit is for you! It will change your mind in a gentle, practical and interesting way. And you’ll find yourself turning the mundane into story often during the day – it really does teach one how to brighten up the way in which one views the world!
The storytelling kit is an audio which is divided into four sections, each of which is approximately twenty to thirty minutes long – it’s a good length of time for listening! Each section addresses a certain theme pertaining to storytelling, and I was absolutely fascinated by the wealth of information imparted in each.
Part 1 (30 mins) introduces the story in general – we all have a story! It answers the question What is a Story?, and illustrates how stories can be found everywhere (in people, in nature, in the elements, in fact in everything you see!) and the positive effects story telling can have on both narrator and audience. Children in particular love stories, and stories can be an incredibly useful tool in education. Stories stimulate the imagination (which in turn develops both IQ and EQ), open neural pathways, and are comfort on a down day. I loved the reference to Albert Einstein: when a concerned parent asked Mr Einstein how to improve her child’s mathematical abilities, he replied, ‘tell him stories.’ At the end of Part One, I was left pondering this: ‘A tale is just a thought away.’
Part 2 (20 mins) gives a chronological breakdown of children’s ages from baby to 12 years old, and what each developmental stage along the way will require from a story. Also what can be absorbed as children grow up – obviously a two year old and a twelve year old will have vastly different levels of comprehension, and one would need to adapt one’s storytelling approach accordingly. In the baby stage, the story teller would use gentle, natural and soothing sounds, mostly from nature. At a year, one would introduce songs and nursery rhymes; at two years old sounds will start to be mimicked. From three to four years, one starts to add rhythm to stories, and from five, the child will start to tell his or her own stories. It’s a perfect time to introduce puppets. From six to seven, a child has accumulated a vocabulary of approximately 20000 words! It’s an appropriate time to introduce fairy tales. By eight, the child has a concrete comprehension of fantasy, and by nine the child will enjoy the dramatic. From ten, the child starts to comprehend that he or she remains a unique individual even whilst being a team player. By eleven and twelve, puberty can play havoc with emotions – at this age, mystery and suspense are particularly compelling. These observations all give important insight into how to tell stories successfully to groups of various sizes and ages.
In Part 3 (22 mins) the importance of voice and body is discussed, and the difference between story telling and story reading is addressed. There are stories everywhere! Your life is a story; your childhood is a story. Even re telling an old story in one’s own words is still storytelling! And there’s so much attached to the delivery thereof: choice of words, tone and expression all form part of the story that one is telling, and looking into someone’s eyes whilst relaying the story will captivate the listener, as will the creative use of vocal range. Helen shares a selection of facial, body and breathing exercises one can use to improve vocal timbre and range. These also include some fun tongue twisters. Interesting to remember is that the audience will interpret your body language, so posture and hand gestures also play a part!
In Part 4 (25 mins) the listener is taken through the process of writing a meaningful story, which can be used in a therapeutic and healing way. The audio presents a step by step format to follow in the creation of such a story, and is beautifully illustrated with an example of a story that the narrator has already written. I found this section to be fascinating; it really teaches how to use stories consciously to address emotional and behavioural issues. The listener is taken through the why’s, what’s and wherefore’s in order to create a meaningful story – from setting the scene, creating the mood, and addressing the problematic issue, to the outcome which one would like to see. The relevance of intention is addressed. I had no idea there was so much substance to storytelling, and I’m inspired to try to incorporate more stories into my everyday life. The parting gift from this wonderful journey – put as much of the practical into practice . . . but don’t forget to listen to your heart.
Perhaps the art of storytelling is falling into insignificance in our fast paced techno based world – Helen really does bring this ancient and important art alive in this must-have kit! I would highly recommend this kit to any parent who is looking for fun and creative ways to connect and engage with their children.
Please contact Helen Hansen
Review by Janet Neilson