Strengthening the Bonds Between Home and School
We can widen the community of storytellers by encouraging children to become "story seekers." The Babayan Story Project invites children to tell the story of Babayan at home, to encourage their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends to tell them stories with similar themes, and to "publish" a second illustrated book based on these stories. As story seekers, children build bridges between home and school. They learn the art of translation. They become weavers of the richly embroidered cloth of memory.
Through oral storytelling, the boundaries between literacy and illiteracy begin to dissolve. For those who cannot read or write, books can be barriers, but everyone has stories to tell. Each voice is distinctive; we all speak from our own experiences. At the same time, we form a community of storytellers.
Igniting Children's Moral Imaginations
Storytelling is a way to ignite children's moral imaginations by inviting them to discuss characters and situations in a make-believe world. Once their imaginations are awakened, children can "return to" or "journey back" to the actual world they inhabit and discuss the ethical dilemmas and problems they face in their everyday lives - problems such as bullying, anger, exclusion, and violence.
Oral storytelling provides an alternative to the didactic approach to moral education. Stories carry children to another place - an imaginary world where it may be easier to discuss difficult issues. In facing real-world problems, children can use the story of Babayan as a springboard to discuss the power to change and to rise above adversity.
Ethical Reasoning and Civic Discourse
Adapting to the Socratic model of Harvard University political philosopher Michael Sandel's course "Justice," the project will pioneer ways to use storytelling to give children the opportunity to engage in ethical reasoning and civic dialogue. Through storytelling, children can learn to discuss the big questions they face as emerging citizens and participants in public life: justice, the common good, and what it means to be a citizen.
Students are encouraged to write and illustrate a third book in which they become "reporters" who document real-life issues facing their communities and share these books at home and at school.
We hope to revive the oral storytelling tradition by encouraging children to retell, interpret, and continue the story of Babayan in their own voices, adapt it to their local cultures and traditions, "publish" their own illustrated books, and create individual and collective art projects.
We like to think of the story of Babayan as a seed we are throwing into the wind. We do not know where the seed will land or how it will grow. That is in the hands of our readers.
Sharing Art, Ideas, and Projects Locally and Globally
An integral part of the Babayan Story Project is to provide opportunities for students, teachers, and families to share their ideas, art, and storytelling locally and globally - in schools, children's forums, exhibits, and through social media. We encourage secondary school students and upper-grade students to become partners with younger students on the Babayan Story Project. As mentors, the older students can help bring out the voices of younger students. At the same time, upper-grade students will have the opportunity to re-engage in the imaginative world of storytelling.
The Oral Storytelling Tradition