Storyteller Entertains Los Alamos Kiwanians

Storyteller Harriet Cole speaks Dec. 15 at Los Alamos Kiwanis Club meeting. Photo by Don Casperson.
Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos

Harriet Cole stood up before the Kiwanis Club of Los Alamos on Dec. 15 and told a real whopper—and people loved it.

Cole grew up in Los Alamos, and, as a journalist, once served as the editor of a local weekly newspaper. She is now a professional storyteller in Arizona. She teaches university classes in storytelling, performs for a wide variety of organizations and events, and helps with workshops for children and adults.

Her story for Kiwanis was about a horrible Scrooge of a man. He loved chicken, and his wife roasted one for him every day. However, when his own hungry father came to call, he hid his daily bird, talked with his father briefly, and sent him away. When he went back to admire his chicken, however, a horrible thing had happened: It had turned into a huge, ugly toad, and it leaped at him, grabbed onto his face, and could not be removed.

The man lost his chicken, his wife, and his home, and wandered away, toad in tow. Cole’s story was gripping but grim—a Brothers Grimm story, in fact—but you see the moral, especially at Christmas time. Cole actually attended Kiwanis to tell the club a little about an upcoming event in Los Alamos. March 12, she will be giving three storytelling workshops at the Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC). The workshops will cater to all ages—children, teens, and adults. She urged Kiwanis members and their friends to participate.

Storytelling is not only fun, she pointed out, but useful. Narrative, she said, is “the way our brains handle our experiences to package them—before we even become aware of them.”

“Humans have been using oral narrative for tens of thousands of years,” she said. “We all start with listening and speaking … Reading and writing are a second language that we learn.”

Skill at storytelling and use of its five steps—people, place, problem, progress, and moral—is a great support for teachers, a doorway to reading and writing, a great way to introduce vocabulary.

“If you can get kids to talk their story before they write it down,” she said, “the writing comes so much easier.”

Storytelling also forms a community. She starts each of her own classes by telling a story.

“Storytelling can be used as a bridge for people who don’t have a lot in common,” she said. “Humans are natural storytellers.”