But there is one thing that is the same the world over…. and that is children and their love of story. One day we were visiting a fort and there was a group of 3rd graders with their two teachers. Unfortunately, it was a day of torrential rains. The kids were soaked and cold as they trudged from building to building listening quietly to the tour guide who rattled on about battles and chiefs and life in the old fort. The children’s eyes seemed to glaze over as they stood there shivering. My sister, who is quite a character, started telling the teacher that I was a storyteller and maybe the children would like a good story at the end of their tour. The teacher was delighted and before I knew it I was up in front of 30 kids telling “Tailypo.” The class enjoyed it, of course, but I couldn’t get over how “the same” they were as kids in the U. S. They laughed at the same places (especially the dogs’ names of Uno, Ino, and Cumtico Calico); they said “ewwww” in the same place (when the old man eats the chopped-off tail of the creature); and they sat on the edge of their seats in the same way when the creature returns for the third time to get his tail back (“Tailypo, tailypo, alls I wants, my tailypo” I said in my spooky voice.) Stories are universal and we need more of them in schools. What a treat it was for me to be up there in front of a group of wide-eyed kids!
After chatting with them about the story, I said, “I hope you enjoyed your story gift from America.” One little girl raised her hand and said, “My aunt lives in America.” I asked, “Oh, really, what state?” And she said, “Ummm….. the United States!” I guess all of our third graders need a little more geography. I’m sure if I asked a U. S. student “What county in Ireland is your aunt from?” she would have given me the same blank stare. The teacher then asked a little boy to share his favorite fact from a report he had just finished on “The White House.” He stood up and proudly told me, “The White House has 35 toilets!” And I live 15 miles from the White House and never knew that! My experience with those Irish children certainly left a warm place in my heart for children and stories all over the world.