If, by chance, you are ever in a museum or store featuring art of the Southwest Native American people, you may come across a Storyteller.
These pieces are relatively contemporary and first credited to an artist descended from the Pueblo people of New Mexico. The standard figure is a woman with an open mouth, telling a story to multiple children who sit on her as she tells her tales.
The statues evoke a very warm feeling of the comfort and importance of telling stories to young children.
My current sub job is in a pre-kindergarten classroom for a teacher serving jury duty. In order to increase print awareness and train not only the students, but the parents about the vital practice of reading to their children, parents come in once a week at the beginning of class and read books to their children in the classroom. It is wonderful to see a room full of parents sitting everywhere reading to their children! I asked the teacher in the neighboring room about this and she said every year when they start this practice they find many parents are surprised at the request and completely unaware of their responsibility to introduce print into their children's lives. Asking them to point out words on signs and cereal boxes to their kids is alien to them, and this once-a-week exercise may be the only time many of these children get this type of one-on-one storytime with Mom or Dad.
On Friday, when this was going on, I saw one student wandering aimlessly. Assuming that he'd been dropped off and no parent could stay, I told him to pick out a book and I'd read it to him. So, we sat down on the carpet to read the book.
As I sat with my legs crossed and the book open on the floor in front of me, this little boy leaned against my leg, looking at the book. Then, another child came and took up the same position on my other side, with his arm on my other leg. Then I felt a tiny hand on my shoulder and another little body leaning against my back, and then yet another child came and sat with us to hear about Curious George.
And so, I became a Storyteller statue.