Recently, I presented a storytelling assembly for kindergarten to grade 6 students in a school that I had visited the previous year.
Before I started, I asked if anyone remembered the stories I had told last year. Many hands shot in the air. I called on a ten year old girl to reply.
“I don’t remember the name of the story,” she said, “but the story was about a platypus who was different from the other animals and the animals didn’t get along with each other and they all wanted to fight, but it all changed in the end when the platypus taught them how to get along with each other even though they were different.” She had remembered an Australian aboriginal dreamtime myth call, “The Platypus,” that I had told twelve months previously.
A seven year old boy listened as she practically told the whole story verbatim, then said, “Yeah, I remember that one too, but I remember the story that I was in! I was the man in the story with the bundle of cloth on my head and it talked and then I threw it down, screamed and ran down the road. I remember that story best! Do you remember me?” He was recalling the story called, “Talk,” a humours folktale from West African, in which I invite students to help dramatize as I tell it.
It never ceases to amaze me how well kids remember stories. Most of the stories I tell are obscure tales that most children have never heard. For kids to be able to recall the characters and plots from only hearing it once, astonishes me every time. It shows how powerful the art of storytelling is and how brilliantly these old tales stick.
Here’s a link to an article from The Guardian about why stories are so memorable.