The age-old practice of oral storytelling holds more benefits for listeners and tellers than was realized in the past. This may be the underlying reason for the current revival in this historic communications art form.
For example, storytelling can be a powerful aid to clinical therapists. It can help deter delinquent behavior in the lives of todays youth. And it can be the key to effective business speeches and sales presentations. I discuss this subject in some detail in my recently completed storytelling manual, "Guide to Oral Storytelling."
Perhaps the therapeutic benefits of storytelling is least known by the general public. Here are a few paragraphs from my manual:
"The therapeutic value of storytelling is seldom considered by most people. To verify the real-world validity of this benefit, I interviewed several seasoned family therapists. Heres an example quote --
"I often use storytelling as a means of finding out whats troubling my very young patients," said psychologist/therapist Dr. Susan M. Lesnik, PhD. "I will sometimes start a story and ask the youngster to continue it in whatever way the boy or girl desires. It brings out things buried deep within a persons being. Its a great way to analyze problem areas in the patients life. And it helps the young person, or sometimes adults, sort things out in their own mind. They feel secure in putting their thoughts in the framework of a story, keeping their real lives at a safe distance. Theres something about storytelling -- it has great healing capabilities."
Dr. Lesnik has observed the power of storytelling during most of her life. Her father was a well-known professional storyteller in their home state of North Carolina.
The long-recognized benefits of storytelling are just as strong today as in the past. This includes motivating kids to read more stories on their own, thus improving their reading skills and building their vocabulary. And it develops creativity and feelings of empathy for other people.
Jim Woodard, who has a storytelling Web site at www.jimwoodard.net, has been the resident storyteller at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library since 1995. He also presents programs at public libraries, schools, museums and other venues.