Tellabration: Making stories come to life
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” On Saturday, in auditoriums across the world, children will be gathered together to experience an art as old as language itself: storytelling.
“Tellabration!,” is a night of stories, sponsored locally by the Roaring Fork Valley Spellbinders. For Woody Creek resident Germaine Dietsch, 75, who originally founded Spellbinders, the event represents all that she’s believed in for nearly 20 years.
In 1988, when she was in her fifties, she was working in the Denver public school system and trying to find an application for her new degree in theater. In her upcoming golden years, she knew she didn’t want to be a golfer or a “lady who lunched.” She sensed that many of the seniors who volunteered at the school felt the same.
“Why not teach them to be storytellers?” she remembers thinking.
While the program was still in its infancy, one of her volunteers, Dee Popat, returned from a classroom, and declared that the children had been “spellbound.” The organization has been known Spellbinders ever since.
Though the group has branched out across the country ” and now the world ” what Dietsch is concerned with isn’t size, it’s keeping the oral tradition alive, and touching each child on a personal level.
“It’s about letting them know there is a person in the community who cares enough to see them every week,” she said.
She illustrated her point with a story about her recent trip to a fourth grade classroom. When she arrived, the children were bored and fidgety, but once she started speaking, they all seemed to focus their attention on her. She told “Molly’s Pilgrim,” by Barbara Cohen, a story of a little Russian girl in America, who is teased because she’s different. It ends happily, of course, with the characters learning that we all, originally, came from somewhere else.
After the story was over, the students, the majority of which were Latino, suddenly started to share their feelings. They said they knew about being bullied, and they were usually too self-conscious to speak up in class. Somehow, however, the story made them feel comfortable enough to speak their mind.
This experience tugged at Dietsh’s heart. “It’s a great way to get kids to open up,” she said.
Her grandchildren live far away, she continued, so she can’t always be there to connect with them on that level. But, like many of the Spellbinders volunteers, she now has hundreds of surrogate grandchildren. And the number is growing every year.
Contact Stina Sieg: 384-9111
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