Canaan families learn how to retell a good yarn

in Canaan/Essex County by

CANAAN — Almost everyone is familiar with the fairy tales of old – Rapunzel, Cinderella, Snow White. They are stories that cross generations and have helped children and the adults in their lives come together with their words and worlds of imagination and lessons.

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Author and children’s counselor, Tanya Sousa visited the Canaan Library recently to take fairy tales a step further.

The Vermont writer lead a workshop with children and adults that talked about the usefulness of retelling fairy tales, rebuilding them, replacing the usual characters with family members, friends or beloved pets, and tweaking the details of the story to go along with those new characters.

“The idea is to practice story-telling in a way that increases literacy and also brings adults and children together in a bonding activity that’s a lot of fun,” Sousa said.

Sousa began by reading an example of one of her own fairy tale retellings called Pogo and the Wolf. Based on Little Red Riding Hood, the new story places her bouncy, tiny dog Pogo in the place of Little Red Riding Hood, other dogs for the mother and grandmother, and a wolf remains, of course.

There is a dog-oriented walk to Grandmother’s house with a lot of sniffing, rolling in leaves and squirrel chasing, and grandmother’s doghouse includes a dog bed, her favorite dog toys, and the smelly wool socks Grandmother likes to sleep with.

“There were no pictures along with the story I told the children, and the group was a very young group,” Sousa explained. “Still, they were entertained and had a number of giggles. The power of story-telling and retelling with familiar ideas, tweaked to include something or someone else, is powerful even without the visuals.”

After Sousa read the sample and gave a bit more information, families were encouraged to practice a retelling of their own.

“There’s no way to do this wrong,” Sousa told them. “The child can lead, the adults can lead, or it can be a joint venture.”

The workshop was funded by Northeast Kingdom Learning Services through the Vermont Adult Education Grant. The funds are supporting Family Education Activities in the Canaan area, including activities that have taken place at the school, the NEKLS Community Learning Center and more that will also take place at the library.

Most of the activities are connected to children’s books or literacy in one form or another. The funding continues until the end of June.

To suggest ideas for future Canaan Family Education Workshops/Activities, contact Tanya Sousa at tanya.sousa@neklsvt.org.

To find out more about Northeast Kingdom Learning Services (NEKLS), call the toll free number: 1-844-GO NEKLS (466-3557) or visit the website, www.neklsvt.org.