Stories are essential tools for verbal development, social-emotional learning, and character education. Intentional parents can use family movies as a basis for storytelling.
Repeat the story of the movie at bedtime, on a rainy day, or at any quiet time. Let your child correct you if you make a mistake and, better yet, encourage your child to tell you the story. Both of you can invent new adventures for Mumble and his friends. Your child’s imaginative and verbal capacities will be enhanced if you invent new characters and create situations that are not in the movie. To learn more about enhancing growth and development through stories told to children, go to How to Tell Bedtime Stories . . . Any Time.
An alternative is to tell a story about when you were a kid and tried to do something that you weren’t very good at. Maybe all of your friends were on the basketball team, but you just couldn’t score any baskets. Or perhaps you were the last person on your block to learn how to ride a bike. Laugh together as you share these parts of your childhood with your child.
Here is a story to read to your child. If you read it at bedtime and your child falls asleep before you are finished, complete the story some other time. Print the picture linked below before you start to tell the story.
Remember in “Happy Feet” how the penguins loved to sing? Well, they really do sing to find their mate . . . even though it doesn’t quite sound like human singing! There are other types of penguins who don’t sing, but they do other amazing things. One type of penguin is the Gentoo penguin. Here is a picture of a parent and a chick penguin and here is a make believe story about something that happened to this Gentoo chick.
It was spring and a colony of Gentoo penguins had survived the winter. While it was still very cold at night, the heavy snow was beginning to melt during the day, green moss was popping up in a few places, and this year’s crop of new penguin chicks were exploring their world. The chicks were finding that they had great skill in dancing, swimming and sliding on the ice. Many chicks had one or two special talents. A chick named Mario, the subject of our story, was a fantastic rock collector. He could pick out just the right stone to add to his parents’ nest or to mark the finish line if the penguins were having an ice race.
Penguins don’t have buildings for their schools. Classes are held in the open air in a different place each day. The teacher picks the place and calls out to the colony just before class begins. The young penguins and their parents know the teacher’s call and when they hear it, they stop what they’re doing and the parents bring their chicks to the school. Absences from school are unheard of in a penguin colony.
This day, class was being held at the beach and it was time for show and tell. Just as Mario was starting to describe how he had found a particularly beautiful rock, a new penguin student and his parents approached the class. The teacher motioned for the students to gather round the new pupil and said “Everyone, we have a new student. His name is Leo and his family just arrived at the colony. Please say hello to our new friend.” Leo looked just like all the other chicks only a little smaller and thinner. His family had been traveling and his parents couldn’t give him as much food as he needed. Later on, penguins who got to know Leo very well saw that his face was a little wider than most penguins and that his beak looked like he was always smiling.
The whole class said, “Hi, Leo”, and Leo waved. He seemed like a shy penguin because he didn’t say anything and kept to himself for the whole class.
When school was over, the teacher’s call rang out over the colony. She was telling parents to come and get their chicks. The penguin parents immediately started coming toward the beach. While the young penguins waited for their families, Mario went up to Leo and said, “Hi, Leo, my name is Mario. Where’d your family move from?”
Leo just smiled and pointed to his throat.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Mario asked.
Leo’s mom walked up to them and said, “Hi there. I’m Leo’s mom. What Leo means is that he can’t speak. He doesn’t have a voice.”
Mario was shocked. “I’m sorry, but what do you mean? How does he talk to you?”
“Well, he speaks to us in sign language.”
Ask your child at this point if he or she has ever seen anyone use sign language. If necessary, explain that people who cannot hear or talk use their hands instead of their voice. They move their hands to represent words, phrases and the alphabet.
Leo signed something to his mom. “Leo wants to know if you’d like to come over and play today. If it’s okay with your mom and dad, that is.”
Mario’s dad was just getting to the school. After introductions all around, Mario asked if he could go to Leo’s nest to play. Mario’s dad said, “Sure, just be back home by dinner time.”
Then Leo and his mom led Mario to their family’s nest. It was on the outskirts of the colony and right up against a gigantic boulder. The boulder was about the size of a large, two storey human house, but since Mario and Leo had never seen a human house, they would have described the rock much differently.
The nest itself was like the other penguin nests, a pile of stones and a bit of smoothed out snow and ice.
“I’ve never met anybody who couldn’t talk. The way you use sign language is pretty cool, though! I could probably learn how to do that. I’m pretty good at lots of things especially rock collecting. Oh, and swimming… and I can even sing and dance!” Mario kept on talking because he was a little nervous; he didn’t know how to act around a kid who couldn’t speak. “Hey, if you can’t talk, then you can’t sing, huh?” Leo shook his head. Mario kept on talking, “Yeah, my mom and dad can’t sing either! It’s pretty awful when they try. But my dad can swim. Faster than anyone in the whole colony. You can swim then, can’t you? I bet you can swim better than anyone!”
Leo shrugged and Mario kept on talking. “No? Hmmm… maybe you’re a dancer! Come on, then, show me your best moves.” Leo started to move his feet and try to dance, but promptly tripped and fell over. Standing up, he rubbed his bottom. “You can’t dance either? What about ice sliding?” Mario asked. Leo shook his head and looked at the ground. Mario suddenly said, “You can’t do anything. You’re weird and no fun. I’m going home.”
When Mario got back to his family’s nest, he explained to his mom and dad what had happened. “And Leo can’t sing. Or swim fast. Or dance. Or ice slide. I didn’t ask, but I bet he can’t even pick out good rocks for nests! He can’t do anything! He’s so strange!” Mario said.
Mario’s dad looked at his mom and said “Mario, he’s not strange. He’s not weird. And he’s not a bad penguin, either. He’s just different.”
“I don’t care! He’s a freak! And I don’t want to play with him anymore,” Mario said.
Mario’s dad looked sad. He began to tell Mario all about how he was teased and left out as a chick because he wasn’t the best rock picker, singer or dancer. He told his son how badly it made him feel.
“Yeah, but you could swim, Dad! Faster than anybody!” said Mario.
“It didn’t matter. Everyone thought I was strange, and didn’t like me, because swimming for fun wasn’t normal. Everyone just swam to find food. Doing tricks and flips and swimming as fast as you could was different.”
Mario’s mom then explained that a long time ago, his dad’s fast swimming, his differences, had saved the colony. In the bad years, when there were very few fish in the Antarctic seas and the Orca whales were particularly hungry for penguin meat, Mario’s dad taught the other penguins to swim fast, to dodge killer whales, and to catch more fish in less time. Pretty soon, the whole colony loved to swim and the Gentoo penguins came to be known as the fastest swimmers around. In the years when many penguin colonies starved, the Gentoo penguins could still catch enough fish to survive. “We’re all here because of your father,” she said.
Mario looked sad. “I had no idea. What should I do now?”
Stop and ask your child what he or she thinks Mario should do. In the discussion bring up the Golden Rule: treat others as you would have others treat you. Would this help Mario decide?
Mario’s mother answered his question. “You can go back to Leo’s and apologize,” she said gently.
Mario walked slowly over the packed snow and ice to Leo’s nest. He asked Leo’s mom if he could see Leo. She looked surprised.
“Mario, you really hurt Leo’s feelings earlier today.”
“I know, and I came to apologize,” said Mario.
Leo’s mom took Mario around the big boulder. Leo was sitting with his shoulders hunched over doing nothing; he looked very unhappy. Mario went over and sat next to Leo. “I’m sorry for what I said. I shouldn’t have been so mean. Can you forgive me?” Leo looked at Mario and after a moment, nodded. He motioned with his wing and stood up. “You want me to follow you?” Mario asked. Leo nodded.
Leo led Mario to a place where the snow was especially thick on the ground and right there was an enormous penguin, sculpted out of packed snow and only slightly melted by the spring sun. Mario’s eyes widened. “You did this?” he asked and Leo nodded.
Then Mario saw that there were lots of sculptures: a smiling whale, a dangerous looking elephant seal, an iceberg. “Leo, making these sculptures is your talent!” Mario said. Leo jumped up and down and grabbed some snow off the ground. He quickly made a sculpture of Mario. It looked just like him!
The next day at school, with Mario’s help explaining, Leo demonstrated his great talent in art to the whole class. Everyone was amazed and Leo stayed after class to sculpt small snow penguins for each student.
Mario hurried to his nest that afternoon to tell his mom and dad all about Leo’s talent, and they smiled. “You see, Mario, it’s our differences that make us who we are.”
From then on, Mario and Leo were good friends, despite their differences. You could often see them playing behind the big boulder near Leo’s nest. Mario would be singing and sliding on the remaining ice while Leo would be busy making snow sculptures.