"Year of the Adopted Family" book release

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Creating a Youth Storytelling Community One Kid at a Time

Most youth storytelling events are just that: events. Nothing may occur for another year. Until then, the youth have nowhere to express their talents.

This is assuming that you have at least one youth storytelling event in the area.

Even with intense organizational efforts, the youth may not feel like they were important to its success.

One youth teller stated in front of parents, teachers, and coaches, “No. This festival is not about me.”

For such a youth-centered event, the answer was devastating. The leaders vowed to change this perception.

To create a youth storytelling community, you will need to:
  1. Build an Event for Youth
  2. Develop Reunions and Gatherings
  3. Promote Storytelling Games and Fun
Build an Event for Youth
Expand your mind as to what could be considered an event such as a: party, social gathering, house concert, library activity, school assembly, campus celebration, civic meeting, contest, festival, etc.

An all-youth storytelling event is preferable, though youth tellers could share the stage with adult tellers and performing artists. Some places encourage artists to come from the community, thus inviting amateurs and professionals. Adult and child levels could be supported.

A festival allows for more than one youth teller to participate in the program.

For the three-day Weber State University Storytelling Festival, 87 youth took part along with 4 national tellers and 30 Utah adult tellers.

Most events will not have as much opportunity to highlight that quantity of youth. If the audience leans towards about 50-100 people in the audience, then 3-5 youth might be able to join the other performers.

Having one youth teller as part of an event would still be one more teller than what normally occurs.

Develop Reunions and Gatherings
A parent exclaimed, “My child has been anxious for this reunion for months.”

After 14 years, the Weber State University Storytelling Festival endeavored to hold a Youth Teller Reunion. The idea could be one of the first of its kind.

During the 2010 February festival, each of the 87 youth tellers received a “Save the Date” postcard. At the beginning of June, letters and RSVP cards arrived to the youth’s homes. Inside the letter the youth were told, “You are officially part of the Festival Family and will be invited every year to this new tradition.”

Youth tellers from other festival years could join the reunion, but that would come from word-of-mouth. One year’s worth of youth would be a large enough group for the kick-off.

An event involving any number of youth inspires a reunion. Three youth would be enough to have an ice cream party or a retreat. Besides, it is easier to arrange smaller gatherings. These gatherings may evolve into something bigger like a reunion.

A reunion need not be an expensive affair.

The Youth Teller Reunion of the Weber State University Storytelling Festival was fortunate to have the Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park waive its rental fee for the space. The park already generated excitement. The Park offered for the youth teller and one parent to attend for free while other family members paid the group rate.

Out of the 87 youth, 24 came. With parents and family members, the numbers reached 76 people.

To further the low-cost approach, the families brought their own lunches. The festival donated items like water bottles, Frisbees, storytelling CDs, and posters as door prizes.

About a week previous to the reunion, 12 names of youth tellers were drawn to determine fairly who would perform for the concert at the park. After the concert, the families could roam the dinosaur park for as long as they liked.

A reunion provides a story-filled day to energize the youth to continue in the art.

Promote Storytelling Games and Fun
While at the Youth Teller Reunion, parent-volunteers led the youth in games. Once taught, the youth could play the games and teach others . . .possibly other kids in their neighborhood.

Provide a copy of these games, possibly through email, to the youth. Give them freedom to adapt the ones on the list or to create their own games.

The youth may enjoy playing the games so much that they will wish to form a storytelling club. These clubs may be as informal as kids wandering into the same space and “talking stories”. Some organizations, like 4H, may sponsor the gatherings while some schools may opt the storytelling clubs as after-school activities.

For storytelling game ideas, check out the book “Raising Voices: Creating Youth Groups and Troupes”.

I also feature a storytelling game each month as part of my e-newsletter. You can go to http://www.rachelhedman.com to sign-up for this free resource.

So what are you waiting for?

Your youth storytelling community may have the population of one.

But one plus one plus one plus one. . .it adds up.

Until we tell again,

Rachel Hedman
Professional Storyteller
Tel: (801) 870-5799
Email: info@rachelhedman.com
Family Famine Series Site: http://www.familyfamine.com/