Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jim Weiss, Storyteller and Recording Artist Extraordinaire - An Introduction

  If you've never heard of Jim Weiss, you're missing out on a marvelous experience. He is a storyteller - a master, award-winning storyteller, captivating audiences of all ages. If you think you're too old to listen to stories, hearing Jim Weiss tell a story will change your mind.

  This weekend, I had the privilege of sitting in four of the five presentations he gave at the 2011 MidSouth Homeschool Convention in Memphis. What a treat! I loved every minute of it. I learned tricks and tips about storytelling and reading aloud, like "Tell the stories you love. And don't think you have to be perfect at it. Through the telling of a story, your children will feel the love you have." I learned about the life and writings of G.K. Chesterton. I sat enthralled with my girls and husband, listening to stories about King Arthur; and we attended a storytelling workshop where the highlight was hearing Jim tell Aesop's fable, The Tortoise and the Hare. In every session he talked about the story behind the story, giving incredibly detailed highlights in such an interesting way. My older daughters talked of nothing but the experience the whole hour-long drive home.
  Jim Weiss grew up listening to his father and grandfather tell stories. His grandfather was the keeper of the family stories, and his father, a history and classical literature enthusiast, told Jim and his brother the stories from the books he'd read. And then he would point to the book, and say, "If you liked that story, you'll love the book."
  "It gave me the incentive to read books," Jim told me.
  As the years went by, Jim started telling his own stories, first to his young cousins, and then to his own daughter.
  In 1989, after years of telling stories for the fun of it, Jim and his wife Randy realized that all the classic stories were being hijacked by Hollywood, and a whole generation of children were growing up without truly knowing these great stories or their important messages to humanity.
  Because of their passion, they decided -in a bold, breathless move- to invest all their savings into starting Greathall Productions, to record the great stories of history, legend, and literature. They call it "Intelligent entertainment for the thinking family."TM
We had never heard of "a professional storyteller," did not know if there was an audience for what we were doing. We know only that the classics, from Aesop to Shakespeare, from Greek mythology to King Arthur through Dickens and Dumas, were often ignored or presented in a way that radically changed the original stories. We knew from experience, however, that a story well told would ignite a love of learning in a listener. Our goal then, as now, was to instill in children the lifelong love of great literature by telling the stories on a child's level without altering the authors' intent.

  And it paid off in a big way. Today, 23 years later, Jim Weiss' recordings have won more than 85 national awards, and gained a fan base from all around the world.
  They have MANY titles to choose from, ranging from folk tales (American Tall Tales, Animal Tales, Tell Me A Story!, Tales of Cultures Near And Far, etc.) to fairy tales (Fairy Tale Favorites In Story & Song, Giants! A Colossal Collection of Tales & Tunes, etc.) to Mythology (King Arthur And His Knights, Arabian Nights, Greek Myths, She and He: Adventures in Mythology, etc.) to adventure stories (The Three Musketeers/Robin Hood, etc.) to true stories of the great masters of art and science (Galileo and the Stargazers, Masters of the Renaissance: Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and More, etc.) to historical figures (Thomas Jefferson's America, Abraham Lincoln & the Heart of America, The Queen's Pirate: Elizabeth I and Sir Francis Drake, Julius Caesar and the Story of Rome, Gone West: Bold Adventures of American Explorers and Pioneers, etc.) to the works of famous authors and playwrights (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare for Children, Sherlock Holmes for Children, etc.)

 And, at the end of most of his recordings -in an echo of his father before him- he encourages his listeners to get the book and read the stories for themselves. 

Those of you who read this blog know by now how passionate I am about reading aloud, and how important I think it is for language development and for modeling the use of oral language, as well as creating motivation for children to read the stories for themselves. Storytelling, obviously, does that too. Plus, Jim Weiss explains, there is something magical that happens when a story is told - an energy, a bond is created between storyteller and listener. A storyteller gives the gift of him/herself in the telling.

I had so much fun meeting Jim and Randy Weiss this weekend. They are warm, gracious, personable, and funny. They gave everyone who stopped by their Greathall booth their personal attention. I watched them help people pick out the perfect CD for their family or special someone. In fact, they personally picked out and so generously donated 2 CDs for this special give-away.

For more information about them, and to see all their available stories and services, please visit the Greathall Productions website, and ask for a brochure. Jim and Randy also write a free monthly newsletter that you can sign up for that includes monthly sale specials, articles/stories by both Randy and Jim, and much more.

And now The GIVE-AWAY!
* This Give-Away is now CLOSED!

In the spirit of fostering that love of reading and learning, Jim and Randy Weiss have very generously provided me with 2 CDs to give to you, my readers, that they hand picked themselves, and that Jim autographed. Thank you so much, Jim and Randy, for being so generous to a humble beginning blogger.

The titles are:
  • Tell Me A Story! A Treasury of Classics. Includes: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The Bremen Town Musicians, Things Could Always Be Worse, The Hare and the Hedgehog, The Little Red Hen, Rumpelstiltskin, and Tell Me a Story. For ages 3 and up.
  • Sherlock Holmes for Children. Includes: The Mazarin Stone, The adventure of the Speckled Band, The Musgrave Ritual, and The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle. For ages 7 and up.

Here's how it will work:
  1. You MUST leave a comment telling me of your favorite storytelling or reading aloud memory/experience. PLEASE comment, even if you do not normally do so, because I want you to have a chance to hear Jim Weiss' marvelous stories. (But please note that comments without a favorite memory will not be entered in the drawing.)
  2. There will be two drawings - one for each CD. Tell me in the comment which CD you prefer. If you don't have a preference, your name will be entered in both drawings for a chance to win either one. They are both wonderful!
  3. You can only win one CD.
  4. The comments for this giveaway will be open for one week. Comments will close at midnight (Central Standard Time) on March 13th, 2011. The winning comment will be announced on Monday morning. 
  5. I'm sorry to have to restrict this, but the drawing is open to U.S. addresses only.
  6. The winner must then contact me via e-mail, so I can get your name and address to send the CD on its way. You have up to three days to contact me after I announce the winners. If I don't hear from you, we will re-draw names.
  7. Bonne chance!


  1. I think the most memorable story was rendered by a dear librarian friend of mine. She was a transplant from Louisiana to a small town in Arizona. Her story was entitled "Sally Salaratus" and told of a young girl who was sent to the store for baking soda. Who knew that a simple trip to the general store could be so dangerous!!! Of course, when such a story is told with a wonderfully authentic southern drawl, it sets the listener right down into the heart of the adventure.

  2. My favorite read-aloud memory was in 4th grade. I had a teacher I absolutely adored. She read aloud to us every single day. I remember clearly James and the Giant Peach, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, and my very favorite...A Cricket in Times Square! Mrs. Rings always did different voices for characters and often included props in her storytelling. I remember building a diorama of one of the stories she read us, though I cannot remember the title of the book. Whenever I read to my children, I think of Mrs. Rings and follow her reading aloud examples. My girls LOVE to do "silent movie acting" while I read. They pretend they are certain characters in the books as I read the stories. Warms the heart!

  3. My favorite read aloud memories are of my sister, Melinda, reading aloud to all of us, her siblings, from Max on down to Brian and Scott, the wonderful tales in books such as "Thunder Cave", and the adventures of Tarzan in the series of Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. She could make it seem like you were really there, living the adventures taking place in the book. I can still picture in my mind all of us together, sitting or laying on the floor or the couches and chairs in the front room, listening. It was great! (Does anyone know who wrote "Thunder Cave"?)

  4. I would have to say just listening to my grandpa tell stories is some of my favorite memories. He remembers everything it seems and can tell so many details. I have written a lot down thankfully.

    Fun giveaway... either CD works for me. I will try to send people your way!

  5. My favorite was listening to my mom read The Hobbit to us when we were little. I was young enough to feel intimidated my the length of the book but looked forward each evening to sitting down and immersing myself in the world of Tolkien.

    Either CD - doesn't matter to me.

  6. probably my favorite memory of being read to was my mom reading "a little princess" to us that she had gotten from her uncle when she was 8. the pictures were fantastic.

    i love bed time with my boys...we get to read books...jheriko and i just finished charlie and the chocolate factory...dillon is now starting to actually pick out books to read-which is kinda amazing that he will slow down to do that.

    ...and i can't believe you get to do a give away...i tried, but had no takers...i had to end up cleaning my house myself :(

    either cd would be great...


  7. We're Jim Weiss fans around here, so I'm so glad to read this post! He's the reader of the Story of the World CD's that we use for history, and we have his Tales from the Old Testament and Greek Myths too. It's fun to learn a bit about his personal story!

    I would love to be entered in the Sherlock Holmes CD drawing. My favorite storytelling memory is of my dad reading 'Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock.' It features a boulder with a woodchuck hiding behind it, making noises to scare his friends Rabbit and Skunk -- but you don't find that out till the end. My dad would really get into the noises the rock made -- I don't know how many times I made him read it!

  8. Thank you all for sharing such great memories with me!

    Janet- Welcome! I saw those (The Story of the World) at his booth, but the price was a little prohibitive when there were so many others I wanted to buy! I want them all, all, ALL! (Cue Evil laugh)

  9. I was at the Memphis Convention, too, and I heard Jim Weiss twice--the GK Chesterton story and the introductory "talk" about storytelling. Hmmm. . . I wonder if we sat next to each other? :-)

    I host a weekly meme--Read Aloud Thursday--so reading aloud to my children is obviously one of my passions. I would be hard pressed to pick my favorite memory, but it might be sharing The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe with them for the first time. Although they were very young, they got it! What a joy!

    As for the Jim Weiss CD that I'd rather have, I think I'd go with Sherlock Holmes. I've never read a Holmes story myself, so this would be a great introduction for all of us.

    Thanks for the giveaway! (I clicked through from Across the Page, by the way.) I'd love for you to join Read Aloud Thursday sometime, too. Just write up a post in which you review, discuss, or highlight your current (or past) read-alouds. I even have a button on my blog, if you're so inclined. :-)

  10. I remember with delight and pleasure how much I looked forward to my teacher reading the next installment of The Boxcar Children in elementary school. I think I was in 3rd or 4th grade. I couldn't wait until read aloud time every day!

    My second favorite story time is the first chapter book I read to my daughter. She was three years old and listened intently to Charlotte's Web. I tried to ration out the chapters, this being her first long story - I thought she would get bored too quickly. But she always begged for more. A good story holds one's attention!

    I would love to win the Sherlock Holmes CD. I have many of Jim's CDs and we treasure them. My daughter has listened to them at bedtime for years. As an only child, they were a great comfort to her when she was small. Now at 10, she still enjoys them at least weekly!

  11. Tried to post this to facebook but there was an error. Twice. Sorry!

  12. When I was a little girl, my grandmother would tell her own stories... she made up a whole cast of characters and each visit just continued on with new adventures. My husband & I have made it a priority to read aloud with our boys. Even though they are getting older, they still enjoy the read alouds. ( I do the school-time read alouds, and my husband does the evening "for fun" reading.)

    We have had the privilege of hearing Jim Weiss before... and can't wait to hear him again next week at the South East Home School Convention in Greenville, SC. We're hoping to meet him this time! Our 14 year old has written a book and would LOVE to be able to give Jim a copy. (Not sure if he has time to read new "budding" author's works, but it sure would be wonderful to get some feedback!)

    I'd love to be entered in the drawing for the Sherlock Holmes CD. Thanks for the chance to win!

  13. It is hard to choose a favorite read aloud memory from so many, but reading the Redwall series by Brian Jacques to our boys when they were little would have to be it. Mr. Jacques does such a marvelous job of translating the different dialects it was easy to speak using the accents of the different characters. This was the series which ignited the love of reading in our boys and the first series they read on their own so it holds a special place in my heart. Now nearly grown, both boys are avid readers. Our family is a huge fan of Jim Weiss. We already have his Sherlock Holmes CD, but the Tell Me a Story CD would be a great way to introduce our littles to this talented artist. Thank you for the opportunity!

  14. My favorite read-aloud memories are those with my husband. As newlywed grad students, we decided to read literature aloud to each other for entertainment. We read so much in our first five years before kids. It was a good time to introduce each other to our favorite works and discover those new to both of us.

    I would prefer the Tell Me a Story CD - thanks!

  15. My favorite read aloud memory comes from when I was a little girl. My parents, brother and I would all pile in bed and my mom would read from a collection of fairy tales. My favorite read aloud memory with my own children is reading "You're not my mother" to my seven month old. She would giggle and point to the little bird on each page.

    I would love to listen to the Sherlock cd. :-)

  16. My favorite storytelling moment was when my brother's and I would make up stories together as kids and act them out for my parents. We enjoyed dressing up in whatever we could find around the house and acting out a "play" that we had made up.
    Our family enjoys listening to Jim Weiss's stories together:)
    Shannon M.
    I would love either CD!

  17. I just to love reading Hans Christian Anderson books.

  18. As my homeschooling years draw to a close this year as my youngest graduates and I turn 56 years of age....our favorite read-aloud story was George MacDonald's "The Baronet's Song" about Sir Gibbie. Trying to capture the Scottish drawl was quite a challenge so I was left with most of the reading. It is our favorite book of all time, one I highly recommend.
    I would love either CD and if I am so fortunate to win, I will pass it along to my daughter who is homeschooling five children of her own.
    Deb Wolfe

  19. I agree that it's difficult to choose a favorite memory! My husband makes up stories to tell to our children, each night building off of the last night's cliffhanger, and I love to read books to them each night. But my favorite memory has to be when my two oldest boys were about 4 and 2. They had just started sharing a room, and often we'd have to remind them to stop talking and go to bed. Well, this one night I crept up the stairs to chide them yet again, when I realized they weren't just talking. My 4 yr old, was desperatly trying to read a book to the 2 year old. He was stumbling over so many words, but he was trying really hard. I stayed in the stairway listening as the 2 yr. old said, "That's okay. I can wait for Mommy to read it to me tomorrow." But the oldest continued to try. It was so sweet! And I was so proud that he would read a good night story to his brother!!

    I think the boys would LOVE to hear the Sherlock Holmes CD.

  20. I think that one of my favorite read-aloud memories was when my 5th grade teacher read a chapter of "The Box Car Children" to us everyday. We never wanted him to stop. :-)

    I would love to have either CD. We don't own any Jim Weiss recordings, but we would like to.


  21. Hello, I am a new reader to your blog (effective today)!
    I did not grow up being read to (aloud or otherwise), though I loved to read to myself! I was teased for being a bookworm! But, I have been extremely blessed these past few years as I have discovered the richness of reading aloud to my young ones. I have heard so much about Jim Weiss and would love the opportunity to win either of his CDs.
    Thank you!

  22. My favorite storyteller was my grandpa. As a little girl he would read to me constantly. I would beg him to keep reading and he would tell me his eyes were burning but he kept on reading anyway. I attribute my love of reading to my dear grandfather.

    My 7th grade son loves the SOTW CD's that Mr. Weiss has recorded. My son had the opportunity to attend Mr. Weiss' teen storytelling workshop at Books and Beyond in Orlando in January.

    We would love the Sherlock Holmes CD since my son is in a British Lit class on Fridays.

    Thanks a bunch, Sue M in Apopka FL

  23. My 4th & 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Gillfillan, read to aloud to us constantly. My favorites from that year were "Mrs. Frisbee and the Rats of NIMH" and The Tripods trilogy (The White Mountains/City of Gold and Lead/The Pool of Fire). It's nearly 37 years later, and I still keep in touch with that teacher, and now read aloud to my own boys (and let Jim Weiss' CDs read aloud to them when I'm driving).

  24. I am so excited by all the comments and great memories! Thank you for your participation and a special thanks to those of you who passed on the word.

  25. I am a new "blog-stalker" to your blog and I LOVE it! As a former pre-school and kindergarten teacher, and a current homeschooling mom to 4, I have an enormous obsession with children's books!
    The best memory of being read to as a child was in elementary school; the book was "Charlotte's Web". From then on I always wanted to have a pig as a pet (The closest I got was a lamb--but that's another story!).
    Thank you for the chance to win! And if I do win, either CD would be MUCH loved in this house! :)

  26. I have wonderful memories of storytelling done by our local librarian from the time my daughter was 16 mo.-5yrs.!

  27. I would like to win Tell Me a Story to use with my preschool class! Thanks for the chance to win.