Bringing Stories Home
As COVID-19 turned schooling remote, Sofia Salusso ’23 and her father worked together to bring weekly story time into students’ homes.
At The New Village School in Sausalito, CA, classes often open with a story. During the past school year, Claudio Salusso, father of Sofia Salusso ’23, began telling his second-grade class stories about Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism and a famous wise man.
When COVID-19 hit, The New Village School shifted to remote learning, and Claudio began looking for ways to continue his story time tradition.
“My dad started recording short stories, and he had a little intro that he would always do, where he told the kids that these were stories a father told to his daughter every night,” said Sofia.
Life began to mirror fable when Claudio enlisted Sofia to help read the voice in one of his stories. Soon after, the father and daughter team began working together to expand the project.
“We started telling stories together,” said Sofia. “I played the recorder, he took out the harmonica, and we started adding little poems and songs. Toward the end of the year, it became a fun thing we would do together every week, making these 15-minute recordings and sending them off. It was sweet to do it together; we had a lot of fun getting into the voices, and I hope the kids enjoyed it. We really enjoyed it, too.”
Though Claudio initially wondered if students and parents would find these classroom stories transplanted to their homes invasive, parents quickly put him at ease, assuring him that they and their children found them to be joyful additions to their days.
“Usually school is meant to be away from home, but we had to bring schools inside homes,” said Sofia. “But it was successful, which is great because in these weird times, it can be hard to know what the boundaries are between invading privacy and what’s necessary for education.”
In one of Sofia’s favorite stories, a man complains to Guru Nanak that he can’t find god. In response, Guru Nanak tells him to stir a bowl of milk. The man stirs and stirs, and eventually, he whisks the cream until it becomes whipped cream, then butter.
“Guru Nanak says, ‘See, out of something you’re used to, you can make butter. That’s also how you can find god within you—by stirring and stirring within yourself,’” said Sofia. “We had a lot of stories like that, which were about connecting with love or the spirit.”
At Bennington, Sofia studies Drama, Music, Literature, and Creative Writing, all of which connected directly to her project with her dad. But most of all, she said, the similarities to her studies were found in “really committing to something you’re doing.”
“In theater, a common lesson is that you get in there, and you commit, even if you don’t know what you’re doing,” said Sofia. “A lot of times, we’d read the story and not know what we were going to do, but we’d get into it and start playing off each other. We enjoyed doing that so much that it became about wanting to commit to making this simple story into something more. That is definitely a theme in my Bennington studies, as well.”
By Natalie Redmond, Associate Writer