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The African Spirit of Storytelling.

Making it a family occasion

For centuries, storytelling has been the moral, ethical and cultural foundation on which African peoples reared their families and built their communities. Stories were told by workers in the fields in an effort to ward off the listless effects of engaging in monotonous duties. Parents told stories to their children as a means of imparting valuable life lessons. Village elders told stories of legacy and pride to sustain their communities. The ability to tell stories was, and still is, a highly respected art form. Storytellers were often called upon as their community's "culture keepers" and considered the guardians of history.

Storytellers ensured that the values and cultural traditions of the community remained strong and clear from one generation to the next. Before there was a wealth of literature that reflected the lives of black children, parents, caregivers and educators made up their own stories, and shared African and African American folklore that was passed down through the generations. Many of those stories were brought to print through the hard work of dedicated folklorists.

Today, African people around the world continue the tradition of cultivating a proud storytelling lineage in contemporary communities. Storytelling, whether from the written text, or through a memory-based oral tradition, is still used in many families as an effective means of teaching universal values, ethics and identity.

Holiday Storytelling Resources

The holiday season offers an excellent opportunity for parents and caregivers to honor the African spirit of storytelling by sharing traditional and contemporary stories with their family and friends. Today parents have the opportunity to go to local bookstores and libraries and find a wide variety of books that speak to our children. Aside from the oral tradition or the written word, storytelling has evolved over the centuries to include musical and theatrical elements to further heighten the storytelling experience.

According to Julius Lester, author of Black Folktales (Grove Press, 1991), "storytelling creates and re-creates community, making a bond between the young and the old, the living and the departed." Lester also acknowledges "there is no replacement to the act of a parent, teacher or caregiver taking the time to sit down and tell a child a story. To merely hand a child a book with the hope he will read it, does not guarantee that the book's embedded messages will be received, no matter how well-written or beautifully illustrated." Given today's rapidly moving society and its propensity for change, the continued practice of family storytime serves to reinforce the concept of family bonding and nurturing.
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Author:Stevenson-Moudamane, Veronica
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 2000
Words:424
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