‘A Story to Tell’ is the brilliant new book, written by Bradford College Lecturers, George Murphy and Maggie Power. The book looks set to become a huge success and shows how narrative and particularly oral storytelling can be used to bring literacy to life for primary school children.
The authors, aided by acclaimed storytellers, relate how they interact with child audiences to bring enduring tales from across the world to life. The book has inspired teachers and helped them develop their own storytelling skills and the abilities of children to retell personal and traditional tales.
George Murphy is a Senior Lecturer on Language and Literacy at Bradford College. He has written several books for children based on adaptations of traditional folktales and is the Chairman of a local storytelling club.
Maggie Power is a Senior Lecturer at Bradford College. As well as writing on language and humanities she is well known for her storytelling performances in schools across the globe. She has contributed to many publications, and is particularly interested in the use of narrative across the primary classroom.
Defining in simple terms, what the book is about, George said: “It’s about the importance of storytelling in primary schools - and by storytelling we mean ‘talking’ rather than ‘reading’ stories.” In the book, performers, teachers and students describe how stories from all parts of the world can be enjoyed, discussed, adapted and performed to develop language and literacy learning. George continued: “The stories could be personal ones, like the ones we tell every day or they could be old, remembered tales retold by each person - such as folktales, myths and legends.” The potential for using folk and fairy tales, myths and legends to support children’s development in the four language modes of reading, writing, speaking and listening is recognised in the Primary National Strategy. George added: “So it’s a case of teachers, learning how to do that and incorporating into their work. It’s also about the children becoming storytellers as well.”
George remarked: “I have a personal interest in storytelling. Maggie and I have been looking at stories from around the world and seeing how those travel across continents and the way in which we can keep them alive and retell them.”
George continued: “We’ve got contributions from a huge range of people who were on our teaching courses and how they incorporate storytelling into their work now as practitioners.”
When asked if storytelling has been a successful way to develop language and literacy learning, George replied: “Both Maggie and I have found it very successful.” He laughed and added: “And we’re trying to spread the word!”
Maggie continued: “Teaching is about empowerment. It’s about enabling children to do things for themselves. With the book, that’s what we hope we’ve done. We hope we’ve worked alongside both the children and their teachers to develop their skills but to also affirm them in what they are doing already.”
Explaining how the idea for the book came to fruition, George said: “I had the initial idea. I was very lucky as I mentioned the idea to Maggie and asked if she wanted to do it. It wouldn’t have happened without Maggie’s involvement. I’d never done a book like this before. Looking back on it now, we both feel that the whole is even greater than the parts. For instance, I would have an area that I was particularly interested in, but it might not include some of the expertise Maggie’s got in Humanities.” George laughed and added: “What I like about the book (and I’ve been rereading it most nights), is it’s even better than I thought. Not least, the involvement from other colleagues and former students, have made it a good production.”
Maggie remarked: “We firmly value the contribution other people have made to the book, including former students and other colleagues from the College. We’ve incorporated work from Caroline Moore, who works as the Education Officer at Bradford Cathedral and alongside that we’ve got a chapter from David Jones, who is one of the leading primary head teachers in Bradford. So again its been good to use their expertise.”
To celebrate the success of the publication, a book launch was held at McMillan School of Teaching, Health and Care. When asked if they’d received feedback about the book, Maggie replied: “The publishing house ‘Trentham’ have been very positive about the work we’ve done here at the College. The head of the publishing house is here today, to attend the launch party for the book.”
Speaking at the launch event, Gillian Klem, Director of Trentham Books said: “It’s not enough for Trentham Books to describe doing magic – they’ve also got to enable the readers to do that same magic too. This book shows the magic of stories and also demonstrates to people how to tell the stories.”
Gillian is a leading authority on children’s literature in education. She has recently received an Honouree Doctorate from Birmingham City University where she completed her PhD 10 years ago. The Doctorate is in recognition of the contributions Trentham Books have made to education. Gillian continued: “As a former children’s librarian I have always been passionate about children’s literature. I have a very good list in children’s education, but my other great passion, which has informed all of my other work, as an academic, as a writer, as a publisher, is quality and diversity and this book automatically builds that into the work. ”
Gillian added: “I also personally edited this book. I do have copyeditors but I felt that this book was very important and I did not want a word to be wasted.”
Clive Opie, Assistant Director at Bradford College attended the book launch. Commenting on the new publication, Clive said: “It is a real honour and privilege to be here this evening. This book is a reflection of the quality of work that Maggie, George and other contributors are actually delivering in the School of Teaching, Health and Care.”
Commenting further on the completion of the book, Maggie added: “We’re very excited and pleased to have it finished. We’re interested to see what the response will be.”
George remarked: “It’s good to set yourself a goal and achieve it – and it can’t be taken away. It’s a bit like when people win a gold medal. Their records might go, but they can always look back and say I’ve done it!”
When asked what family, friends and colleagues thought about their achievement, Maggie said: “They’re pleased. At the moment we’re in the process of giving it to people to have a look at, so again that’s quite exciting.” Maggie continued: “The very first copy was given by the publisher to my daughter in London and she was very, very excited!”
George added: “It was nice to send it to my sisters, who I don’t see that often. I ran out of books and one of them rang me up over the weekend and said: “Where is my book?” Which was quite funny.”
Maggie noticed a small boy leaving a storytelling session with his hands clamped over his ears. When she asked him why, he explained: “It was so good I want to keep it in my head.” Maggie explained: “The young boy on the front cover worked with us and listened to a story that he was told in school. If children are given stories and carry them home, not necessarily written down, but in their heads, they can then take the story and give it to someone else, which becomes very empowering.” Maggie elaborated further, explaining: “I think it’s about valuing the importance of narrative in all our lives and empowering first teachers and then children to be able to use stories in their lives.”
This groundbreaking book is fundamentally important, as storytelling is a tradition that is in danger of dying out in the primary curriculum. Experts believe that narrative and in particular oral storytelling, is essential for the development and support of children’s four language modes of reading, writing, speaking and listening – and this has also been recognised in the Primary National Strategy.
In conclusion, George said: “We know the benefits of keeping the story alive in the classroom. I think the book will be instrumental in keeping alive narrative tales in the curriculum–and finding value in it. I’m encouraged that the book is helping to let people know that storytelling is still very relevant to today’s teachers and primary education."