I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Weiss, an international storyteller who has made a huge impact on homeschooling families for years. His recordings of classical and historical stories provide families with an easy way to introduce great literature to children of all ages.
As Jim points out on his website, reading comprehension increases by leaps and bounds when a child hears a story told or read aloud. Not only does the child develop listening skills, but he learns story structure as well. And Jim’s work is even more far-reaching as he travels around the world, sharing stories with both children and adults.
Below is the second part of the interview.
Jim, you’ve traveled all over the world to the places that have inspired the stories you tell. Is there one particular place or visit that especially stands out in your memory?
I’ve performed in 48 of the 50 states (I’ve missed the Dakota’s — so far) and internationally, and everywhere we’ve gone for performances/teaching sessions/research for upcoming recordings, I’ve met wonderful people and had marvelous experiences.
I’ve enjoyed visiting the homes of famous authors and artists, such as Beatrix Potter, Mark Twain, Carl Sandburg, Sir Walter Scott, Michelangelo, and Ernest Hemingway’s Parisian haunts, and on our recent trip to Japan, we stopped to pay homage at the simple home of a famous haiku poet of the seventeenth century.
In New Zealand, I performed at a beautiful opera house (with wonderful acoustics, of course,) and in Singapore, for more than five hundred people in the gym of a neighborhood community center, and enjoyed both. (The gym acoustics were not quite the same as in the opera house.)
I have told stories (twice) on the back lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., on television, and to intimate groups in living rooms, in upscale private schools on New York’s Upper East Side, and in a rural school in New Mexico’s ranch country which students attended daily from as far away as fifty miles.
Every audience is different, and in terms of loving stories, every audience is the same, no matter who they are or where we have gathered. Once the stories start, we all are related.
Based on the people you’ve talked to and the letters you’ve received, how have your recordings impacted children and families?
My wife, Randy, and I feel that having received over one hundred awards for our recordings takes a back seat to the greater reward of hearing from our listeners. We have heard from parents whose children didn’t like to read, and who are avid readers now; from parents of severely dyslexic kids who have pushed themselves to read after a recording inspired them, or who are legally blind but who now know the classics because of the recordings; from young adults who tell me that they were inspired to become writers, scientists or artists because of the stories I told on those subjects; and, over and over again, from parents who tell us that the stories have drawn their families closer together.
Many tell us that the stories prompted discussions on the decisions that the characters made, and how these parallel the decisions facing the family members. There are other letters, calls and face-to-face comments that I will not quote because they are deeply personal, and often related to us through accompanying tears. Stories unlock so much, and the right story, told lovingly to the right person, can change a life.
How has your family been impacted by Jim’s stories?