The most powerful memories I have of my childhood are the moments I shared with my father, when he taught me to read.

Those memories were always precious to me; but more precious is the opportunity that I have to watch him read a bedtime story to my nieces today, though he died two years ago.

In the spirit of storytelling, here’s the backstory.

My father was raised on a farm during the depression era, second oldest of eleven children in a two bedroom house, not far from the southern border of Nebraska, near Selden, Kansas. He worked tirelessly within a strong family unit, tending to cattle and pigs and chickens and corn and wheat and such. My five brothers and sisters and I all recognize the value of hard work – the fruit of the harvest, as a result of our family ties, spending summers on that farm and the nearby farms of aunts and uncles.

Unwittingly rooted in that experience, as the storytelling from him goes, education was instilled in him by his father. When the time came to graduate from the local schoolhouse, he went on to become an educator, earning his Masters in Education and working as a teacher, then principal, then textbook salesman – while simultaneously serving in the role of father.

Robert Sulzman - Teaching class in Manhattan, KS

Robert Sulzman – Teaching class in Manhattan, KS in the 1960’s


Learning to read with: Fun with Dick and JaneAfter a long day of work, my father would spend time with me – and Dick and Jane and Spot – teaching me words and phonics. It was very special to have exclusive, one on one attention from my father, as the youngest of six children! I have a very clear memory of him over-pronouncing words to enhance the phonetics, making the shape of a big ‘O’ with his mouth to distinguish long ‘o’ from short ‘o’.

From reading to storytelling.

Today, I am thrilled to watch him do many of the same ‘read-aloud’ tricks as a video storyteller to his grandchildren, using my technology here on Be There Bedtime Stories.

I launched this platform desperately motivated to bond with my two nieces who lived 2000 miles away. The opportunity to read a bedtime story to these two little creatures who were of my own flesh and blood, was wildly logical. Not only can I partake in an entertaining and developmental activity with my sister’s daughters, I would also be recognized by them when I visit! It wouldn’t take three days before I could approach them for a hug and a kiss; I could engage in activities without them needing their mommy to be in the room; I could become the favorite aunt in the family! (Don’t tell the others…)

However, I quickly realized that I was burying the lead!

As I built this storytelling technology, I quickly realized that we were recording far more than just family videos. The keepsake value of these video storyteller recordings is priceless, as evident now with the four precious Webtime Stories we have of my father, reading to his grandchildren. My family, including a third granddaughter born after his recordings were created, and his brothers and sisters that miss their big brother, have a rare and unique video to watch and enjoy on a day like today.

Because watching someone read a story is a storytelling experience, which is a shared experience. Storytelling naturally brings about the creativity of the storyteller, and our technology here records far more than video media. It records many shades of a storyteller’s personality, along with their values and beliefs that come through as they insert comments or questions throughout the narrative. It’s reflected in what they decide to point out in the illustrations or the cast of characters – whether intended or unintended by the author. And the secret sauce that ignites the flavor of this delicious experience comes from the motivation to connect with a child.

Alison Sansone's Dad Reads-When-I-Visit-the-Farm

Alison Sansone’s Dad Reads: When I Visit the Farm to his grandchildren, on Be There Bedtime Stories.

Family videos come in all shapes and sizes and textures and tenors.

Storytelling videoes, on the other hand, bring sharp focus to the imaginative experience of a story – and, more importantly on a day like today – a unique focus on the storyteller.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy!

Little did you know that when you taught me to read you were also teaching me how to transform reading into storytelling by launching a tech startup to set the world on fire!

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