Tell Me a Story
written by Emily Bannister; illustrated by Barbara Chotiner
2016 (Kane Miller)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher
So write of adventures and journeys you take,
And please share with me, whatever you make.
"So what's your story?" Ever been asked that question? We want to connect to others, to know about their experiences. Believe it or not, the purpose of writing is not so the teacher has something to put in the grade book. Writing allows us to share a little (or some novelists who share a large chunk) piece of ourselves with the world. Throughout this rhyming text, the narrator exhorts the writer to make a connection. "Send me a story down a river or sea. Send me a story to bring you closer to me." We love to hear stories from others so we can better understand them. I can give you facts about my life, but if I share a story, you can really get a sense of who I am. Another reason we love stories is that they take us away to other places. How often do we get lost in a book or watching a movie because a writer has captured our imagination and allowed us to leave our present location? The narrator urges the writer in all of us to send them a story about traveling so far. This also opens the door for a mini-lesson on identifying the setting in a story or how the setting can move the plot. Think about your favorite books and how the setting was vital to the story. For example, where would Hatchet be without the woods? The Grinch without Whoville? Setting is so meaningful in a story so I'm pleased to see it emphasized in this book. Another emphasis you can make with Tell Me a Story is to encourage young writers to orally tell their tale before putting the pencil to the paper. This is an important part of the writing process. It helps flesh out your story and also works on communication skills as you talk with a partner.
I started writing because someone asked me to do it. It was that simple. As a parent, I was pretty good at pulling out a book every evening and reading to my girls. But how often did I ask them to tell me a story? Not read a book, but just tell a story. That is a critical skill for young learners. With the help of this enticing new book, we can encourage more storytelling with our youngest writers.