Tools and Techniques

In the last chapter we examined guidelines for effective storytelling along with how to make optimal use of the storyteller's voice, the emphasis being on the oral tradition of storytelling. While most stories are oral and have long been communicated in words, that is not the only way to relate stories, especially to children. Our ancestors made their stories come to life visually by painting them on the walls of caves and chipping them into rocks—the precursors of symbols that are our present-day books and movies. They put on masks, decorated their bodies, and told their tales in song and dance—the beginnings of modern theater. Maybe, as they sat around with their listeners, they sketched their tales in the sand—a forerunner of the blackboard—or made rudimentary clay models of story characters, animals, and implements—the origins of today's toys.

In this chapter I outline some of the many ways by which you can present stories to heighten their auditory, visual, and kinesthetic impact, and thus engage the child in a more interactive learning process. In exploring the use of books, drama, videos, toys, play, humor, experience, and collaboration in pediatric metaphor therapy, I cover stories presented by parents, teachers, and therapists; stories written or told by others (such as those from the classics); and stories created by the child. All such tools and techniques can help facilitate the listener's identification with the problem and, consequently, the steps taken toward its resolution.


There is an abundance of children's books available with new ones coming out all the time—and some of these provide excellent metaphor stories. Below I have listed two categories (classic value stories and specific self-help books) to illustrate the types of books available and the ways they might be used.

Classic Value Stories

Remember the story (or the movie) of The Wizard of Oz? Of Dorothy's searching for something, somewhere over the rainbow? Of a lion who found his courage, a tin man his heart, and a scarecrow his brain? Of a wizard who was not what he appeared? Of Dorothy's discovery that "there's no place like home"? There have been countless books, documentaries, and even university courses about this single, classic children's tale, which was made into one of the most watched movies of all time. And the reasons for its success can be found in its core values that address the insecurities if childhood, have a central battle between good and evil, encourage the discovery of personal resources, and empower a positive outcome—all with humor. In Table 3.1 I have provided other examples of classic value stories, including the authors' names and some of the values the story communicates.

Therapists, teachers, or parents who want to teach values through stories can thus read these classic tales to a child, or direct the child to read the story him- or herself as a homework exercise. The story can then be discussed (if appropriate) following the reading or at the next therapy session. Such a discussion may employ questions like: Which character did you like the most? What did he or she do to help resolve the problem? Who had the best/most helpful/most practical ideas to fix things up? What did he or she do? If you were in the same position, what would you have done? What else do you think might be helpful? How do you think the main character felt when everything worked out well?

Table 3.1 Some Examples of Classic Value Stories

Book Title



The Jungle Book

Kipling, R.

Respect, friendship

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Bach, R.

Perseverance, compassion

A Girl Named Helen Keller

Lundell, M.


The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe

Lewis, C. S.

Motivation, restraint, truth

The Little Prince

de Saint Exupery, A.

Kindness, humanity, love

Anne of Green Gables

Montgomery, L. M.

Honesty, kindness

The Wind in the Willows

Graham, K.


Black Beauty

Sewell, A.

Forgiveness, perseverance

Louis Braille

Davidson, M.

Faith, perseverance

The Adventures of Pinocchio

Collodi, C.

Determination, love, devotion


Perrault, C.

Faith, harmony

Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

Burton, V. L.

Faith, perseverance

Lassie Come Home

Knight, E.


The Secret Garden

Burnett, F. H.


Harry Potter (series)

Rowling, J. K.

Friendship, goodness

Specific Self-Help Books

A number of self-help books deal with specific problems and the development of problem-solving skills in children, covering problem areas such as loneliness, worry, fighting, feeling angry, dealing with bullies, separation/divorce, or coping with cancer or other health issues (e.g., Amos, 1994a, 1994b, 1994c, 1997; Amos & Spenceley, 1997a, 1997b; Braithwaite, 1997; Brown & Brown, 1998; Moses, 1997; Thomas, 1999). Some look more at outcomes like how to be brave, happy, and confident.

Most of the self-help messages are presented in a metaphor story such as "Johnny had a problem. This is what he did about it. And this is what happened when he did." It is possible to direct children to the stories relevant to their situations, either in bookstores or local libraries. If you are working in a specialized capacity with kids in these areas, you may want to look out for the series that best suits the needs of your clients. You can then present the messages by

■ reading the story to the child in the therapy/teaching session,

■ lending the child a copy to read between sessions, or

■ lending a copy to the parent to read with the child, thus involving the parent in the process and, hopefully, benefiting the parent-child relationship at the same time.

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