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INTEREST Spellbinders spin folk and fairy tales and stories that engage children By Don Moore Redstone Review LYONS – Oral storytelling is a tradition that has been around for thousands of years, predating recorded history. Stories serve the purpose of passing from generation to generation societal and cultural Moore traditions, including moral groundings which have allowed civilizations to survive. Storytellers from the Longmont Library chapter of Spellbinders are keeping the oral storytelling tradition thriving in Lyons Elementary School (LES), with me, Don Moore, assigned to first grade, Peg Brown second grade, Marsha Williams third grade, Deborah Crabbe fourth grade, and John Setter fifth grade. “We are a well organized group of people that promotes storytelling, primarily for children,” said Marsha Williams, talking about the Spellbinders program. Williams, from Hygiene, is a 33-year veteran retired teacher who always loved telling and making up stories for her children and grandchildren. She is a three-year member of Spellbinders. “I learned about Spellbinders, took the training practice, mentor practice, and received evaluation on my storytelling skills,” Williams went on to say. After this certification process, she was assigned to a grade and school where she goes twice a month to tell stories of her own choosing. Spellbinders is a program founded in Denver in the 1980s and 90s by Germaine Dietsch that brings mostly elders in regular contact with youngsters through the storytelling art form. In 1997 it became a Colorado nonprofit and currently has 13 chapters, 12 of which are in Colorado with the Longmont Library Spellbinders being one of them. The chapter is funded by the city of Longmont through its public library and conducts its training and holds its monthly meetings in the building. Children’s librarian Kathleen Kunau is a valuable liaison and resource for the chapter and its members. “The Longmont Library Storytellers has 48 members, 39 of whom are telling stories in classrooms in the St. Vrain Valley School District so far this year,” Kunau said. “We tell in 19 schools, 143 classrooms, about 3500 students each month.” Spellbinders also tell stories to the elderly in nursing homes. “Our chapter has monthly meetings that keep us energized and motivated,” said Williams, who is co-chapter leader. “We have expert storytellers giving us tips to improve our storytelling skills. About two-thirds of us are retired and one of our members is 88 but acts like she’s 68.” Spellbinders choose the stories they want to tell. Williams loves telling fairy and folk tales, and legend stories from around the world. She looks for and tells stories that have a strong female main character and those with a strong male main character whose strength comes from other than sheer brawn. Recently, Williams told two different third grade LES classes the story of “Mother Holle,” a Grimm Brothers clas-

sic. It’s the story of a widow who had two daughters, one who was very kind and the other who was very lazy. In the tale, life rewards the kind daughter for her kindness and the lazy daughter receives her just desserts for her sloth. Williams believes that stories from long ago bring into focus dilemmas that were faced then, and are the same dilemmas we face today. “Stories give kids tools in making decisions, training in making choices, and what kinds of character traits help in life,” Williams said. “Hearing the stories we tell allows us to become part of the human family.”

modulating the volume of her voice, using inflection, gestures, and character voices. She will have practiced it in this manner and with a stopwatch at least six times prior to telling it before a classroom of students. “At the end of telling stories to children, I feel drained and energized at same time. I feel like I was just a vessel and the story came through me as a channel. By far and away it’s the most creative thing I’ve done in my entire life,” she said, adding, “I guess I was always a closet storyteller.” Principal of LES Andrew Moore is an ardent believer

Storyteller Marsha Williams, at left, captivates the students of Darcey Pierce’s third grade class during a Spellbinder’s story session on November 9. PHOTO BY CATHY RIVERS Additionally, she points out, telling stories to students improves their vocabulary and listening skills, along with giving them an enhanced desire to spend more time in libraries. In most schools Spellbinder storytellers tell their stories in the classroom, but at LES it happens in the library. Part of Williams’ time in teaching seventh grade was spent being the director of student-performed plays and other live theater. She shuns the use of showing pictures, believing that storytelling is done best when the teller uses only his or her own voice and gestures. “It’s good for children to use their own imaginations; it makes it real. The oral telling allows the listeners to put their own pictures in their minds, pictures that perhaps are more vivid than I could show them on paper,” she said. Williams takes her storytelling seriously. Before a telling, she practices telling the story in front of a wall,

in the value of storytelling and during the first five years of his educational career he used storytelling as a primary feature of his teaching. He also noted that over the course of a child’s time at LES he or she will hear more than 50 stories told by volunteer Spellbinders. “Storytelling, fire, rhythm, singing, and dancing all have a thread of humanity that transcends all cultures. These things are core elements of what it means to be human,” Moore said. “Storytelling is an archetypal human experience.” For more information and to learn how to become a Spellbinder storyteller, see Don Moore is a retired lawyer and the author of Love is a Verb: Healing Yourself through Love, Gratitude and Compassion. He lives in Lyons.

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