Miramar boy earns storytelling award with tale of rooster

MIRAMAR--Ryan Nelson knows how to tell a good story.
Ryan, 9, of Miramar, is one of six students recently chosen statewide as a winner in the Florida Storytelling Association's Youth Storytelling Contest.

In a videotaped entry, Ryan presented his rendition of The Young Rooster Crows, from the children's book Fables.

Ryan, a fourth-grader at A.C. Perry Elementary, committed the story to memory over the previous few months and presented his entry, complete with expressive gestures and barnyard calls, including mimicking a rooster crowing.

In the story, the other barnyard animals tell the young rooster, who recently took over the job of "main crower," that if he doesn't crow properly, the sun won't come up.

The rooster crows quietly at first, and the sun stubbornly stays behind clouds day after day. He ultimately learns to do his best, crows with enthusiasm and sees the full, bright sun come up.

"I like the part where at first he didn't know how to do it and he tried again and it actually worked," Ryan said. "I learned that a first failure may prepare the way for future success."

Ryan and his mother, Rhonda Hudson-Nelson, will attend a storytelling sleepover camp next month in Eustis as guests of the Florida Storytelling Association. The camp will feature story workshops and "story concerts" led by prominent storytellers, as well as traditional camp activities.

"It's going to be cool," Ryan said. "My brothers are jealous because I get a couple of days off from school."

Ryan was motivated to enter the contest by the school's media specialist, Barbara Green of Miramar.

"She really helped me work on the story, and she's nice," he said.

Green and teachers at the school audition students at the beginning of the school year and identify those who can excel in storytelling.

"Ryan is very comical. He's very relaxed," Green said. "If you're relaxed when telling a story, it's very helpful in the presentation."

Green said about 10 students were identified at their first storytelling meeting.

"During October, they practiced once a week and during November, we met every day to perfect the stories," she said. "You want to `be the story,' let others hear and see what it is you are trying to convey. The students had to learn it was OK to let go and express themselves."

The students gain self-confidence and learn about the history of storytelling, Green said.

"It was popular before there was TV, video games or other activities to distract families from sitting down together and interacting," she said. "The children also get recognition from other boys and girls when they see them tell their stories. They get status among their peers."

(source) Sun Sentinel (Marcia Freidenreich) 3-25-05