Geeta Ramanujam, storyteller, explains to Priya George why she thinks it’s important to tell kids stories.
The tales that Geeta Ramanujam tells are most gripping – most of her storytelling sessions for children see her audience hanging onto her every word, and end with them begging for more.“In my workshops, I don’t see the difference between learning, teaching, education and storytelling,” said Ramanujam. “We are inspired by the gurukul system, where the transaction of knowledge was based on the oral tradition.” By returning to this form, she said, she intends to “deviate from the modern system of teaching, and highlight the Indian ways of thought and education, which are good systems of imparting knowledge”. Her passion for spreading storytelling is reflected in the spectrum of Kathalaya’s activities – apart from working with kids in schools, the organisation also holds sessions for underprivileged and disabled children, trains teachers in storytelling and also conducts workshops for companies to help employees improve communication skills, build teams and de-stress.A good story, according to Ramanujam, is a multi-sensory experience, which engages the ear and eye, while also invoking associations of taste, smell and touch. And compared to the contents of textbooks, stories have the advantage of being continuous narratives, and can thus naturally hold the interest of children. In Ramanujam’s view, the levels of interest and concentration induced by storytelling can be very beneficial to children’s minds. “When you listen with interest, you naturally retain and are able to recall details,” she said. “You can then retell the story with confidence.”While she uses a blend of styles for her storytelling sessions, Ramanujam hews close to the Steiner Waldorf method of education, which advocates the use of fantasy and imagination in storytelling, unlike, for example, the Montessori system, in which stories are all based on the real world. “We are all born with an imagination,” she said. “We immediately visualise things, and this helps the imagination to become sharper.” Harnessing the power of the imagination helps enhance the creative facilities of the brain, which in turn plays a crucial role in developing emotional intelligence, she explained.
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