Thursday, April 21, 2011

Two Minutes To Tell - StoriesLive!

Stories take on many forms. Some may be long, sweeping Irish epics, comical Appalachian Jack Tales, or pourquoi folktales answering those "Why?" questions young children always seems to ask. Then there are those short, two minute stories that reach in, touch your soul, grab your heart, and momentarily leave the listener speechless. Two minutes? Can it be possible to accomplish all of that as the seconds tick by?

There is a story connected to the famous author Ernest Hemingway. It is said he considers this short story to be his best work, and he did it in just six words:

"For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn."

Today, the founders of massmouth are blazing a new trail for teenagers in Massachusetts. They are doing what might seem to be an impossible task, getting teens to share their stories through the StoriesLive!  program. Granted, two minutes doesn't allow time to add extraordinary imagery, nuance and perfect pacing, the tools professional use to enhance their stories. Yet, the shorter time frame might just be the key these young adults need to unlock and release the fear of public speaking. Two minutes is possible, two is doable, two minutes is safe. 

Listen to Maho share his heartstopping story, just one of the many high school students who are learning to share where they come from!

Would you like a chance to hear these stories live? There will be a public performance at Cambridge Public Library on April 30 at 2:30 P.M. (on Broadway). To listen to more student tellers go to .

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A World Without Art

"Art is important. We tend to think it is a luxury, but it gives people deep pleasure because beauty is the personification of hope that something grander is at work. Gil Dellinger

"Art programs at Boyertown High School in Pennsylvania are in danger of being cut, so the students made a video to show the School Board Finance Committee how they feel about their art classes - they weren't allowed to show it. Now districts across Pennsylvania and the nation are starting to use it to advocate for their own programs. It's a great video."  From Art Learning, Inc.

These amazing students give me hope!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Three Cups of Tea or a Serving of Honesty

Tea-Drinking by Andrey Ryabushkin

This weekend I was working on a blog post about honesty, based on a discussion during our FAIR Massachusetts Humanities session. We read A Days Work by Eve Bunting and The Empty Pot by Demi. The discussion was rich and families shared personal stories about moments when they chose honesty over deception.

As storytellers and teachers we carry stories of integrity, honesty, generosity, fairness and respect into schools and libraries, and sometimes use real life examples of philanthropic men and women to frame our folktales. Gregg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea seemed to embody all of these ethics and more. Sadly, this weekend there have been questions from many authoritative fronts about the veracity of his work and organization.


One insightful article about this new dilemma is at The Book Bench - New Yorker.“Three Cups of Tea” and the Stories We Tell"  by Macy Halford

I sincerely hope Mr. Mortenson will reconsider and allow an unbiased accounting of his organizations funding, exonerate himself and undo the damage to his reputation.  At a time when too many people place pop musicians, actors, athletes and reality housewives on pedestals, now more than ever we need true heroes to emulate and respect.


A Boiled Seed Cannot Sprout - China

The Hidden Treasure
India * The tale is also accompanied by a teacher’s worksheet.

The Honest Penny - Norway

The Honest Thief - India

The Honest Woodcutter

Learning to Give - Twelve multicultural folktales about honesty.


Books that foster critical thinking.


First-School -

Learning to Give -

Teacher Planet – Many curriculum links, activities and more.

Character Connection – A useful pdf file filled with stories, activities and a word search.


Tall Tales - Parents can use this activity at any time, and while it seems like just a fun story, it can teach children that not telling the truth, or exaggerating the facts in a story can sound silly to someone else. Choose an event that happened while you were with the child, and make it into a story. For instance, you can tell a story of how you went camping last summer. As you tell the story, insert five untruths or exaggerations into the tale. They can be anything from encountering a bear, to changing what color tent you stayed in. See if the child can figure out the five facts that are not true in your story. From