An Interview with Storyteller Jim Weiss

Jim Weiss’ Stories & Audio Books

Storytelling is a unique educational tool that is often overlooked in our hectic world. In the car, with a captive audience, you can take the time to tell or listen to stories on CDs to help your children develop good attention skills, a rich vocabulary, and a strong foundation for reading and creative writing.

Jim Weiss is the quintessential storyteller and his fairy tales, Greek myths, mysteries, and Shakespeare adaptations were among my sons’ favorites. His soothing, melodic voice calmed and captivated them.

A popular performer at education conferences, I recently saw Jim Weiss at the California Homeschool Network’s EXPO. I asked if he would answer some questions about his work for this issue of the Carschooling Ezine. I think you will enjoy his responses that are sure to help you make the most of every mile.

What motivates you to tell and record stories?

Jim: It is through stories that a civilization passes down its truest, deepest beliefs. A great story becomes a living part of who we are. I know this because these same tales were the gifts my own father and grandfather gave to my brother and me when we were boys, and they shaped our attitudes and beliefs.
Greathall Productions
The recordings that our company, Greathall Productions, has produced over the past twenty years, have brought letters telling how the stories have led to a passion for learning and a kinder, more ethical way of interacting with others. Young adults tell me that a story motivated them to pursue their chosen profession.

What was your all-time favorite story as a child?

Jim: As a boy, of course, the adventures were my favorites. I loved everything from “Tarzan of the Apes” to “The Three Musketeers”, although I quickly learned to discern the quality of one over the other. (Hint: Dumas trumps Edgar Rice Burroughs.)

When your daughter was a child, did you listen to children’s recordings in the car?

Jim: When our daughter was a child, the audio “explosion” had not happened. There were LP’s of Danny Kaye and a few other artists, but these were not available in a format that would work in a car. We helped to create this new world of transportable stories for kids.

What is your most memorable moment of car travel with your family?

Jim: There are so many! To experience the beauty of our country – Yosemite, the Blue Ridge Mountains in autumn, etc. – and to do this together is wonderful. To visit historic sites in Washington, D.C., and then have “car time” in which to share our responses was, and is, one of the great family experiences.

Carschooling isn’t just for kids. Many adults enjoy learning on the road. When you and your wife travel by car, do you listen to audio recordings?

Jim: My wife, Randy, listens to spoken word recordings almost every time she drives alone. This is her chance to catch up on books, both fiction and non-fiction. I listen to the news or to a wide variety of favorite music. I sing in the car in order to keep my voice in shape.

If you had to recommend your recordings to someone who was unfamiliar with your work, which would you pick and why?

Jim: For ages 3 and up, I suppose I might begin with “Animal Tales”. It includes such classics as “The Tortoise and the Hare” and “Chanticleer the Rooster”. The character voices and humor make these stories the most widely requested stories for live shows.

For the 5 and up group, how do I choose between the more dramatic recordings such as “King Arthur and His Knights”, which mixes classic adventure with deep lessons on courage and love, versus “Giants” or “Famously Funny” which offer lighter fare – though these include lessons, too, couched in more humorous form?

Similarly, for ages 7 and up, I am torn between classic literature such as “Sherlock Holmes for Children” versus the history recordings. It’s hard to choose among “Galileo and the Stargazers” (two thousand years of science through the amazing adventures of seven different geniuses) or the U.S. history recordings, “Thomas Jefferson’s America” and “Abraham Lincoln and the Heart of America”.

I have also recorded the enormously popular historical novels of G.A. Henty. Our newest unabridged reading is of the Newbery Award winner, “Carry On, Mister Bowditch”. It’s a superbly written true tale of a poor boy living in revolutionary-era Massachusetts who overcomes enormous obstacles and grows up to completely transform nautical navigation and save countless lives.

Which of your recordings is your personal favorite?

Jim: I do not have one favorite. I tell only stories I love, which is one of the few rules for storytelling. Some stories are fun for the voices and accents I get to do, and some for the action or the plot twists. For me, the characters are the real heart of a story. Since I am endlessly fascinated by people, I am fascinated by a variety of characters in literature and in history.

For families that would like to start their own story-telling traditions, do you have any starter tips?

Jim: Yes. Tell stories you love.

Don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect. People like the little imperfections in a personal telling. Besides, above and beyond the information you pass along in a story, your child will always remember that you loved him/her enough to share stories.

Ask the elders in your family to recount the stories of their childhoods, their marriage, their education, etc. These stories are priceless and irreplaceable. They tell where you and your kids really came from, and not only will you learn information but you are liable to learn what wisdom/life lessons your elders consider most important.

The discussion after the story is as important as the story. Let the listener savor the spell of the story for a time, and then ask about the motives and choices of the characters.

Retelling or reading really fine literature to children gives them an appreciation for a variety of life experiences. Of course, one must choose and tell stories appropriate for a child’s age and particular sensibilities.

Naturally, the best way to do this is to listen to Greathall Productions recordings. But you knew that already, didn’t you?

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I agree that listening to Greathall Productions recordings makes car travel time a highlight of any day. You can find recordings by Jim Weiss at your local public library. You can also see the variety of titles he offers and hear samples of the stories at his website at www.Greathall.com where they are available for purchase at a discount of 10%.

As a special offer to subscribers of the Carschooling Ezine, you can get an additional 5% off just in time for holiday road trips and gift giving!

Simply enter, “carschooling 5% discount” in the “Special Instructions/Comments” box when you place your order.

Your order will be processed in-house by Greathall Productions, Inc., and the additional 5% discount will be applied. You’ll receive a receipt indicating the discount when your order is processed. There may be a short delay from the time you submit your order until you receive the receipt. Thank you for your patience. 🙂

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