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Storyteller and children in Turkey
Zeynep Akgün telling a story to children in Istanbul, Turkey

Reviving Turkish Storytelling Tradition: A Journey with Zeynep Akgün and CPI

Step into the enchanting world of Turkish storytelling with Zeynep Betül Akgün, a full time university teacher and passionate instructor dedicated to preserving Turkey’s rich cultural heritage through the art of narrative.

With a background in English literature and a Delta qualification from Cambridge University, Zeynep brings a unique blend of linguistic expertise and theatrical flair to her craft.

Storytelling provides several advantages to children. As children listen to stories, they acquire knowledge, establish connections with their cultural heritage, and help carry forward traditions

 

Clay figures made based on the story told
Through darts and crafts, children can communicate complex ideas and messages that would otherwise be impossible due to a lack of vocabulary.

Zeynep’s journey into storytelling began with a deep-seated interest in acting.

From theatre courses to improv classes, she honed her skills and soon found herself captivated by the power of storytelling.

Recognizing the cultural significance of oral tradition in Turkey, Zeynep embarked on a mission to revive this age-old art form, inspired by a Google Ad from ChildsPlay International, offering storytelling partnerships. 

 

New Approach to Creating a Ritual for Storytelling

Storytelling for Children in Pre-reading Stage

Zeynep and the children doing arts and crafts after a storytelling session.

Zeynep employs various methods to help pre-reading children interpret stories.

Besides the classic approach of drawing, she also uses magic clay and other arts and crafts activities to engage the children with the stories they’ve listened to.

This inventive approach is just one example of Zeynep’s innovative contributions to the CPI partnership.

A boy explains his drawing to Zeynep during a session.

Child explaining his drawing to storyteller
Since the children are in the pre-reading stage, the arts and crafts segment of the storytelling sessions has proven to be crucial.
"Turkey embarks on cultural mission to preserve its fairytales. The mammoth task of collecting magical folklore of the Anatolian plateau involves thousands of stories"

Drawing from her Turkish roots, Zeynep delves into the rich tapestry of Anatolian folklore, weaving tales that resonate with timeless wisdom and moral teachings. Through interactive sessions in kindergartens and schools, she introduces children to the magical world of storytelling, offering them a glimpse into their cultural heritage.

But Zeynep’s approach goes beyond mere storytelling; she incorporates elements of creative drama to engage young minds and nurture their imagination. From physical warm-ups to improvisational exercises, she encourages children to explore their creativity and develop their storytelling skills.

Anatolian Stories

The vast plateau of Central Anatolia
Anatolia, the peninsula that constitutes the Asian portion of Turkey, is a vast plateau known as Central Anatolia (Asia Minor). This region, broken by mountain ranges, forms the heartland of Turkey.

Anatolian stories refer to the rich and diverse folklore and traditional tales originating from Anatolia, a region in Turkey.

These stories are deeply rooted in Turkish culture and have been passed down orally from generation to generation.

They often feature a mix of mythology, history, and moral lessons, offering insights into the values, beliefs, and customs of Anatolian society.

Anatolian stories encompass a wide range of themes, including heroism, love, adventure, and the supernatural, and they continue to play a significant role in Turkish literature, art, and entertainment.

The Guardian writes: “The oral folktales of the Anatolian plateau are a remarkable blend of storytelling motifs and traditions, drawing on the Arabian Nights and Brothers Grimm, as well as Kurdish, Persian, Slavonic, Jewish and Romanian influences.”

 

Children Are Active Participants

In Zeynep’s workshops, children don’t just listen passively—they become active participants in the storytelling process. Whether it’s retelling a story with a twist, creating their own narratives, or bringing scenes to life through acting, every activity is designed to ignite their imagination and foster critical thinking. In the first session, she asked the children to retell a part of the story in their own words.

Figure made from modeling clay during Storytelling Session.

Model Clay Figure Inspired by the Story

The Story "The Lambs Ayşe and Fatma" is an Anatolian version of "Little Red Riding Hood."
Storyteller Nil Esra Başaran in a kindergarden

Storyteller Nil Esra Başaran

Nil, a professional storyteller and educator, captivates the children with her storytelling mastery.
CPI's Storytelling Partner Zeynep Akgün in action

CPI Storytelling Partner Zeynep Akgün Uses Innovative Techniques

Zeynep introduces a distinctive ritual before and after storytelling sessions, incorporating physical warm-up activities and arts and crafts as post-session activities.

A Play-Based Educational Partnership to Encourage Creativity

As Zeynep guides her students through the magical realm of storytelling, she not only imparts cultural knowledge but also instills valuable life skills. Through the power of storytelling, she inspires young minds to think creatively, communicate effectively, and embrace the rich tapestry of their cultural heritage.

"I am so glad I found you on Google. I’m a university teacher, and I have been thinking about how to combine storytelling and drama in my teaching. I want to take the storytelling program to hospitals, orphanages, and organizations that work with refugees here in Turkey.“
Zeynep Akgün profile picture
Zeynep Akgün
Storytelling Parter, Turkey

Establishing a Safe and Nurturing Environment is Crucial for Successful Storytelling Sessions

 

CPI is highly inspired by the innovative approach that Zeynep, along with her expanding team, is introducing to the warm-up ritual. Recognizing that every country and culture has its unique preferences, CPI is eager to gain further insights into the pedagogy utilized in the Turkish kindergarten and school system.

 

CPI’s Storytelling Manual in Action

CPI’s Storytelling Manual guides our partners, who tailor it to fit their cultural requirements and practical needs. 

In Turkey, Zeynep has applied her own techinqes to the warm-up ritual, involving more physical activities followed by arts and crafts.

Cover Storytelling manual

Arts and Crafts Plays a Pivotal Role in the Storytelling Program

CPi’s recommendation is to draw after a storytelling session. 

Zeynep introduces clay modeling as a creative activity following storytelling sessions, adding a hands-on element to engage the children further.

Through drawing, and art,  children can communicate complex ideas and messages that would otherwise be impossible due to a lack of vocabulary.

The objective is for each child to paint/draw their understanding and representation of their chosen story.

She has started a Fairy Tale Story Book project, where the children start by creating the cover of the book, before they start filling in drawings to reflect the stories they listen to during the program.

About Zeynep Akgün

Zeynep Akgün reached out to CPI after coming across the website during a Google search.  While working as full-time college teacher, her passion for teaching led her to storytelling as a tool for reaching children and adults alike.

As Zeynep launched CPI’s inaugural storytelling program in Turkey, she also enrolled in a specialized storytelling course designed for teachers. This initiative enabled her to not only spearhead the storytelling program but also deepen her understanding and proficiency in the art of storytelling.

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