Michael D. McCarty writes…
That which does not evolve dies. The ability to change, grow and adapt is essential to the survival of any species, society or ideal. Storytelling has been around since the dawn of man, which says a lot for the viability of this essential art form. Throughout human history stories have been used to inform, inspire, educate and more. Storytelling is part of our DNA.
So what is the role of literacy and storytelling in the 21st century? How is it evolving? The National Storytelling Network’s Storytelling Interest Groups (SIGs) give an indication. Storytelling has entered the business world and the Storytelling in Organizations SIG, Annette Simmons’ books, “The Story Factor” and “Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins” and a host of other books and individuals are taking it there in a big way.
The Storytelling in Higher Education (SHE) and Healing Story Alliance (HSA) SIGs promote storytelling in colleges and the healing arts respectively, while the Youth, Educators and Storytellers Alliance (YES) champion the value of storytelling in the classroom. The Producers and Organizers (the only SIG without an acronym) SIG brings together those who produce storytelling events. These folks are constantly working to make storytelling enticing to new audiences.
On another front, since 1997 The Moth, which is headquartered in New York, New York, has been conducting Story Slams, i.e. story competitions, which have brought in a whole new group of people to storytelling. The most prominent group is the twenty & thirty something’s that come in small numbers to traditional storytelling events, but come in droves to The MOTH.
A critical task for Storytelling is combating illiteracy. One of the most shocking bits of data is the alarming rise of illiteracy in America. People are reading fewer books and the ability to spell is going out the window. I’have worked with middle and high school kids who couldn’t read a simple children’s book or pronounce a word over two syllables without difficulty.
The positive impact of storytelling in fostering literacy has been well documented (check out www.storynews.org). The challenge for storytellers is to be proactive in making sure the education community is made aware of and utilizes storytelling and storytellers to this end.
The Los Angeles Reading Project (LARP) places storytellers in pre-schools telling stories to the children AND the parents and teaching the parents to read and to tell stories to their kids. A director at one of the pre-school sites noted that parents told her that their kids wanted to hear stories rather than play with their high tech toys and games! This is a great example of how literacy and storytelling in the 21st century are tied closely together.
The art of storytelling is alive and kicking. It’s up to those of us who love it to continue to spread the word.
“The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them and learn to give them away. Sometimes a person needs a story more than they need food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other’s memory. That is how people care for themselves.”
A short bio for Michael D. McCarty
Awards and Grants
Public Corporation of the Arts Grant (Long Beach, CA) 1994 -1999
Candlelight Award for Sharing Hope 1998 (South Africa)
National Storytelling Network’s 2003 Leadership & Service Award (Pacific Region)
Armand Hammer Museum California Afro-American Museum
The House of Blues, Los Angeles African Market Place, Los Angeles
Knott’s Berry Farm
John Anson Ford Theater Plaza de la Raza, Los Angeles
African Festival of the Arts,Chicago Whole Life Expo, Los Angeles
Bay Area Storytelling Festival Santa Monica Museum of Art
Autry Museum of Western Heritage National Storytelling Conference
Summer Solstice Folk, Dance, Music & Storytelling Festival
Co-Director Los Angeles World Storytelling Festival (2002, 2003)
National Storytelling Festival (Exchange Place)
Museum of Contemporary Art
Check out Michael D. McCarty’s Website….