REPRESENTATION Storytelling Days


It's World Story Telling Day on March 20th and Tell A Story Day on April 27th - two days for telling tales and sharing stories. Eva Wong Nava, our Representation Feature editor, takes a look at what these celebration days are all about.


Storytelling is as ancient as the hills and trees. As an organisation for authors and illustrators of children’s books, it is only right to celebrate storytelling because we are storytellers.


 *slide from Eva Wong Nava's school visit. 

When I started doing the research for this article, I discovered that there were two national days related to storytelling. There is World Story Telling Day, which is celebrated in March, and National Tell A Story Day, which is celebrated in April.


World Story Telling Day celebrates the art of oral storytelling. It is also a day that celebrates multilingualism since March 20th is the day dedicated to the oral storytelling tradition, and a day when people all over the world are telling and listening to stories in their own languages or in as many languages as possible.


National Tell A Story Day on April 27th encourages people of all ages to share stories in as many forms as possible. You could narrate your story, or read a book, or create one from the top of your head. This day also celebrates the art of oral storytelling, and not only that, it celebrates the gathering of friends and family forming a community of storytellers and story listeners as explained in this source.


I spoke to Dr Lalith Wijedoru, founder of Behind Your Mask. Known affectionately as Lal to his friends and family, Dr Wijedoru was a paediatrician for most of his medical career until he decided to pivot to becoming a storytelling coach and facilitator. Today, he visits schools and organisations to talk about the importance of telling our own stories. Here’s what Lal has to say:

*image courtesy of Dr Lalith Wijedoru 

I help people craft their personal stories, either for private personal reflection or, more commonly, to share in front of others.


When I am asked to share my own personal stories, the main themes relate to adverse childhood experiences, identity (sexuality, ethnicity, gender, profession), and creativity (my involvement in visual and performing arts).


What motivates me about sharing stories is to connect with others, and ourselves, as humans. I am particularly passionate about hidden stories. Stories that speak the uncomfortable truth. My experiences as a senior emergency medicine paediatrician, working in both resourced and resource-limited settings, has exposed me to the harsh realities of life from child abuse, accidental death, and medical futility.

*image courtesy of Dr Lalith Wijedoru 

Working with children, I know that stories are remarkably economical in conveying complex messages in graspable ways. This is why I want to bring those skills to help us ‘big kids’ as well as children connect and resonate with our personal stories.


I work with teams, businesses, and organizations where I create psychologically-safe reflective spaces with boundaries for short personal stories (of colleagues) that can be shared orally with one another. Many of the themes of these storytelling sessions relate to diversity and inclusion, mental health and wellbeing, and leadership.


“We change because we hear stories, and because we tell them.” (source)


Mental health practitioners will tell you that storytelling is powerful. Storytelling has the power to heal. Storytelling allows people to feel heard and validated. Stories also help listeners to perceive another person’s reality and perhaps find catharsis in their own lives. As a storyteller, I use my stories to help children find empathy and compassion for themselves and others.


When I go to schools to talk to students about my journey as an author, I would share how I started first to advocate for diversity and representation in books and media before I became an author. By advocating, I mean that I promote diverse books and uplift underrepresented authors. After some time doing this, I realised that the books I was promoting and uplifting were few from East and Southeast Asian authors.

* slide from school visit, courtesy of Eva Wong Nava 

So, I started to write my own stories. In this form of storytelling (during school visits), I also talk about being part of a diaspora that comprises of more than one billion people. When I mention this, I see some children’s eyes boggle in trying to figure out how many zeros there are in one billion. Then, I tell them the story of my ancestors with photos to illustrate. Photos borrowed from Getty, as many of my family photos were lost during immigration and expatriation.


* slide from school visit, courtesy of Eva Wong Nava.  

When I do this, I see how some marginalised children relate, how my identity as a marginalised adult resonates with them. These children would often hang back, come to me individually to either hug me, or tell me something personal about themselves. This proves that storytelling is a powerful tool that helps to make children (adults as well) feel seen, heard and validated. Storytelling helps us connect with one another, as Lal had said. 


Why am I telling you this?


It’s Tell A Story Day and this is my story.


Don’t forget to tell a story on April 27th.

*Header image courtesy of Ell Rose

Eva Wong Nava is a storyteller and an author. She loves retelling folktales, myths and legends from East Asia because these stories help children enter diverse worlds and universes where dragons, heroes and heroines, warriors and gods and goddesses reside. You can find her stories on X and Instagram.


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures.

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