MARQUETTE - Bedtime stories, story hour, shelves of books in the library's children's room - kids love a good story, but they don't always have to stay on the receiving end of the tale.
Fourth through eighth graders have the chance to become storytellers themselves with the Walk a Mile Storytelling Troupe at the Peter White Public Library. WAM gives kids the chance to learn the basics of how to tell a good story, whether they are telling a story written by someone else or one of their own creations.
"Ninety-nine percent of what we do in school is paper and pencil," said WAM coordinator Corinne Rockow. "Then once we graduate, 99 percent of what we do is oral."
Storytelling is an art and middle school students are getting the chance to learn it first-hand at the Walk a Mile Storytelling Troupe at the Peter White Public Library. Lead by children’s librarian Corinne Rockow, storytellers practice making up and performing stories through different activities. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Children’s librarian Corinne Rockow passes out a poem for storytellers to practice performing at a recent meeting of the Walk a Mile Storytelling Troupe. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Storyteller Miranda Millin, 11, participates in a storytelling exercise. (Journal photo by Johanna Boyle)
Learning to tell stories out loud, besides being a lot of fun, helps the kids get comfortable with speaking in public, Rockow said, which is a skill they will use throughout their years as students and then as adults.
The group meets Mondays from 4-5:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Peter White library. During their meetings, the students explore different types of stories, such as folk tales and popular books, as well as different ways to tell them. Through theater games and other activities, they get the chance to try out the mechanics of storytelling, from character voices to emphasizing certain words to draw the audience in.
The storytellers also get the chance to try out telling stories they have written themselves, all with helpful critiques from their fellow storytellers and Rockow.
"I would love to have them get excited about telling stories from around the world and telling stories from their own families," said Rockow, who began telling stories while touring as a folk singer. "I realized I needed to tie the songs together with something. Stories are really powerful."
Many of the WAM storytellers said they got involved in the group because of their love of reading.
"I've always loved to read," said Miranda Millin, 11. "When I was little I read out loud. I love doing the different voices. I like to read and write, so I thought this would be a good thing."
Millin, who attends the storytelling workshops with her two sisters, said she enjoys telling stories with fantasy elements.
"I like stories about kids who do important things," she said.
Sister Kaitlyn, 9, said that although storytelling can come with a bit of stage fright at first, it just takes some practice to become comfortable.
"It's not scary once you get started. I was scared the first time I told a story, but it's fun," she said.
The group is currently working toward performing some of their stories at the Young Author's conference that is held in local schools in the spring.
While working on their own stories the WAM group is encouraged to write their tales down so they can be preserved and repeated. The exercise combines the act of writing with figuring out how to perform the stories.
"I start writing it and if it doesn't work, I stop or try to come back to it later," said storyteller Molly Lawton, 11.
Middle schoolers who are interested in storytelling are welcome at any of the Monday meetings.
For those who are more interested in the writing aspect of stories, the library is also holding a Youth Writing Competition for middle and high school students, including home-schooled students, sponsored by the library, the Marquette Monthly and Dr. Allyn Roberts. The contest is open to students living within the library's service area, which includes the city of Marquette, as well as Marquette, Chocolay, Ewing, Powell, Sands, Skandia, Turin, Wells and West Branch townships.
Writers can enter in three categories - short stories, book reviews and poetry. The deadline for entries is Jan. 23, 2012.
The six winning entries will be published in the Marquette Monthly April issue and the winning writers will receive $50. Winners will also be invited to a writing workshop during the U.P. Book Tour in June 2012.
For more information about either the writing contest or the WAM Storytelling Troupe, contact the Peter White library Youth Services Department at 906-226-4320.
Johanna Boyle can be reached at 906-486-4401. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.