"Once upon a time there was a baby tree who was lost in a big, dark woods. She couldn't see her home because it was too dark. She asked a leaf, "Where's my home? Have you seen it?" The leaf said, "I saw a brown tree like you!". "Thanks," said the baby tree. "I see something brown and straight", said the tree, "That must be my home!" And it was. THE END.
This was one of the many stories my friend, Opal, told in our woods. Other children are joining us. I've resorted to using my iPhone recorder rather than writing, as I would in the classroom. Taking dictation is better, because the storyteller sees the progression of the words from left to right, and has to slow down to make sure you are getting all of her/his words down. They patiently repeat what you don't get the first go 'round, which is immensely humbling. But in the woods, writing is awkward. Maybe you could do it. I am using technology.
In any case, as difficult as it sometimes is to record stories and watch other children in the woods--I am supposed to be supervising, after all--I am delighted to accommodate the storytellers. Their faces shine with the light of discovering that their own imagination can create something very much like the stories they read in picture books.
The story Opal told also demonstrates that children's stories reveal universal themes of being lost, found, searching for home, and wanting to be with one's own kind. Vivian Paley wrote about this very thing in her amazing books. This video link shows how seriously she took children's words. "Cute" wasn't a part of her vocabulary. A child's words were important to her. And so I will continue to listen to their stories as long as they want to tell them. Ms. Paley would approve, I'm sure.