Today I am happy to bring you an interview with both Lisabeth and David, the creators of Sparkle Stories. We are huge fans of Sparkle Stories in this family and they have helped us through so many transitions. I am so happy to support them and this short interview gives a little insight into why. Welcome David and Lisabeth!
KC: What was the first idea that influenced the creation of Sparkle Stories? And what was the first Sparkle Story?
Lisabeth: The idea for Sparkle seemed to drop right from the sky, in a lovely flash of realization — almost 3 years ago. (Really!)
Here’s what happened: My kids were sick, or at least under-the-weather. I was online, hunting for quality audio stories for them to listen to, and I couldn’t find much of what I was looking for. I wanted stories that entertained and were joyful, but also modeled the kind of world I want to create for my kids: kind, respectful, wonder-filled. And I didn’t want to have to listen to the stories first to make sure they were appropriate!
And I was finding conversations online where other families were expressing the same thing: a need for high quality audio stories for their own families. Stories that they could trust!
And then I realized: I’m married to the very man who could create those stories!
David has an incredible ability to spin beautiful stories at the drop of the hat. He developed his talents over the years of classroom teaching and parenting — using stories to teach as well as to manage classroom dynamics and challenges. I thought: What if I could tap his talent as a resource?
And then I got goosebumps, and promptly ran to tell him my idea. And so Sparkle was born.
KC: My daughters instantly know the difference between the voices of Martin and Sylvia and Mama and Daddy. My three year old often asks why they have different voices. Can you tell us how it works to make the different voices for each character?
David: Your daughter is very intuitive. The characters do not need different voices. She would be able to tell the difference even if I didn’t do voices because she is transported to a place where the story is unfolding in front of her: there is Martin, there is Sylvia, and she can see them talking.
Mostly I do voices for the older children and the parents – and because it’s fun. But when I tell stories live – I don’t do any voices. It is easier to transport an audience when the “dramatic” elements are stripped away, leaving the pure story.
KC: I originally bought a Sparkle Stories subscription with the hope of helping my daughter learn to concentrate. Not only does she sit down and listen to each story in its entirety, but she has learned to tell her own stories and incorporates different character voices after having heard so many Sparkle Stories. How do you think oral storytelling benefits young children?
When asked this question, I like to toss out a surprising Albert Einstein Quote:
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
There’s contemporary research that has corroborated that engaging the imagination (or “making pictures in your mind”) grows neural connections in the brain. Joseph Chilton Pierce, the author and child development specialist, wrote: “We find that storytelling challenges the brain to create entirely new routing every time. Every new story means new neural connections must be made…”
When children listen to stories, and create their own images, they are building a new map of neural pathways in their growing brain. So stories told orally — without any accompanying image — have a profound impact on the complexity, versatility and adaptability of a child’s growing brain. And, as Einstein proposed, that informs their intelligence.
KC: About a year ago, on rainy afternoon, I decided to tell my oldest daughter a story about a little girl named Lupine who lived on farm with her younger sister Zinnia and their parents. Little did I know that that simple story about a summer thunderstorm would lead to me telling a bedtime story about these two sister every night since then, but sometimes I run out of ideas! Can you give us parents a few tips for on-the-spot storytelling?
David: I tell several stories a day – all made up. I start every one the same way: I PAY ATTENTION. No matter where I am – sitting in traffic, lying next to my youngest boy, standing in front of an audience – I pay attention to the sights and sounds and smells and inevitably, something jumps out. Something commands my ATTENTION. And it is usually something that I don’t expect: the sound of the clothes drier, a stuffed elephant on my boy’s shelf, the smell of coffee, the feeling of my wallet in my pocket. Something grabs my attention. It could be a thought or a feeling or an urge as well. I could be thinking about my dog. I could be feeling irritated. I could have the urge to laugh. All valid attention grabbers.
The next step is to choose one and LET IT TELL THE STORY
I see a crow? Then I say “Once upon a time there was a crow who…”. I hear a siren? I say “Once upon a time a little girl heard a fire truck siren and …” I smell toasted bagels? I say “Once upon a time there was a boy who was hungry …”.
Then comes the fun part: keep talking. Don’t listen to the little voice in your head that is telling you to stop. Telling you that your story is no good. Telling you that you have no idea what you are doing. Just keep talking. See where the story goes. If indeed you run into an impasse and you don’t know what to say next, then PAY ATTENTION again and let the new attention grabber motivate your story.
KC: I love that you often link recipes from your weekly stories to the Sparkle Blog. What are your top three favorite story-inspired recipes?
Lisabeth: Thank you for asking this! Sparkle Kitchen is my own purely creative contribution to Sparkle, and it’s really fun for me.
I think the most recent Strawberry Slushies are my current favorite! Only because it was so fun to create. The idea for the story came from a subscriber, Bug, who sent us an email with granita recipes in it. And so we created a whole Martin & Sylvia story just so we could try out those “Slushies”!
I made them with our dear friends and neighbors, who have small girls, and it was so much fun!
After that, my favorites are the ones that are really involved, like the Ethiopian Food one (inspired by Martin & Sylvia’s “Trip to the City” story) — that one was HUGE but was really fun to pull off.
The ones that are most loved by subscribers are the ones that are so unique to the Martin & Sylvia stories — like Alabama Toast, or Momma’s Spiced Applesauce. The whole idea for Sparkle Kitchen came from subscribers who emailed in to say “Do you have a recipe for that?” I love that families are delighting in cooking the same foods that Martin and Sylvia eat. And I particularly love the reports of kids trying new things — because Martin and Sylvia ate it!
KC: Thank you so much for talking with me! Now to go try out some of those recipes…