From the Desk of Deb, October 2017
Storytelling Festival for Fall
by Deborah B. Ford

Years ago I took advantage of the interest in scary books to launch a fall storytelling festival in our library. With stories like Tailypo to Wiley and the Hairy Man, our kids were drawn into the ambiance of the flashlight-flickering fake fire and orange felt moonlight while listening to stories told from rarely checked out books from the bottom shelf. Older kids spent the month learning how to tell stories, while younger kids practiced choral reading or reader’s theater. The age-old tradition of telling tales gave kids a chance to be in the moonlight, while improving their presentation (and listening) skills.

How does it work? Begin by selecting books that may seem new to your readers. This is a good time to bring out the short story collections, 398.2s, and gems from the top and bottom shelves. Allow older readers to choose books to tell and coach them during recess or lunch to improve their storytelling skills.

Start your program by doing a group story. Whether they repeat what you say, sing or there are hand motions, get them involved right away. Save treats or snacks for when you are telling a longer story.

Storytelling became so popular that many of the books never came back. They went from reader to reader as they learned and reread the stories. Older kids asked to come during recess/lunch and have their own festival.

Between the ambiance and the power of storytelling, the Fall Storytelling Festival became a yearly tradition. Parents and community members asked to participate. Kids became tellers and blossomed during presentations. Books with low circulation left the shelves. What about your readers? What books will you use to entice them to tell? 

Set your Ambiance

  • Build a fake campfire. Create the “heat” by placing a flashlight in a coffee cup. Wrap red and gold tissue paper around the cup. Place the logs in a teepee form around the fire. Paint clumps of newspaper rock with gray paint splattered in runny black paint. A bucket of “water” creates a safe role model.
  • Hang a crescent moon from the ceiling. Use felt and batting to create a stuffed moon or use bulletin board paper for a more temporary one. Use a grommet to create the hanging hole for your fabric moon.
  • Turn down the lights to create ambiance.
  • Eat s’more cookies or marshmallows during the longer tale that you tell.

Choose New Books to Tell

Additional Tips

  • Another way to introduce stories long-on-the-shelf is to dress as a character on Festival Day. Read from the book or give clues as to who you are.
  • Screen your tellers, whether they are parents, community members, or students. What story will they tell? Is it appropriate for the audience? Can they engage the audience?
  • Watch your audience and react with their mood or behavior. (Stretch your story or get to the point!)
  • Sprinkle audience participation throughout the program.
  • Use a variety of stories and story presentation. (flannel board, children acting, storytelling apron, puppets…)
  • Plan for about 20 to 45 minutes, depending on age level.
  • Make yourself a program with the order to allow for memory lapses.
  • Be excited!
  • Greet your “guests” at the door.

Check out the Grab and Go Storytelling Package and try it yourself.

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