Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fun in New Jersey

Last week was a hoot! The best day was Monday, when I told stories at Cliffwood Elementary School, in Cliffwood NJ (I don't know how long the pictures will be on the website, but check out the photo gallery on the site).

How did I get to New Jersey, other than by plane? Through a series of fortunate events, the fabulous school librarian has had my recordings for a couple of years and has played them for her students. Susan and I had begun a correspondence about storytelling by e-mail. In one e-mail, she wondered if I would ever be near enough to come to her school. When I realized that I would be in Philadelphia for the International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase, I e-mailed her and suggested we try to set up a day of storytelling. It worked!

I stayed with Susan, her daughter, two dogs and a cat not far from Cliffwood. Monday morning we leapt into the car and went to school, talking the whole way. A big sign inside the front door welcomed me to the school, as did every staff member I met. The library was festooned with pictures from the stories the kids had listened to in anticipation of my visit. The Gunniwolf and the little girl decorated one wall, cat and mouse sat at the ends of the bookstacks, the ghost with the one black eye was right behind me, a washing machine and dryer adorned another wall. The week before, Susan had brought my website up on the big screen television so the kids could listen to stories not on the cds and they could see my pictures.

It's great fun to tell stories to kids who are already on my side. When they came in, I asked which stories were their favorites, promised to tell at least one of these, and warned that I would also be telling some stories they'd never heard. They were all excellent listeners, even the preschoolers who had not heard me before.

This was one of those good schools where the principal came to listen periodically during the day--I do understand that principals are busy, but sometimes they don't even come out of their offices to see what the children are doing. Fortunately, I find that engaged and interested principals like Kelly Bera at Cliffwood are getting to be the norm.

When I'm at a school all day, I like to eat with the kids. I'll even eat school lunch. Cliffwood has a special "teacher soup," so I had that, beef with barley. Yum. I table hopped, eating my own lunch, talking to the kids about what stories they liked, about their favorite school lunch, about their pets and siblings. Even the third graders who hadn't heard me yet wanted to talk to me. Later the teacher said that when it was time for them to come to the storytelling, they got right up and in line.

I did four sessions, with a little extra for the afternoon preschoolers. Normally I'm tired after a full day, but I still had some energy, so after work Susan and I took her dogs out to the beach, for a walk for us and a run for them. As a native Rhode Islander I'm always happy to be near salt water. Then home to a delicious supper and a PBS special on TV. What a day. Ahhh.


Anonymous said...

Love the pics! Do you have a link to the newspaper article in NJ? I want to see it.

AKA Anonymous until I can do this on my own dang computer.

PriscillaHowe said...

Here's the link:

PriscillaHowe said...

Well, that didn't work very well, did it? Trying again: Asbury Park Press