Raising Voices: Working with Youth Storytellers

by Judy Sima

There is no greater joy than seeing a child’s face shine in the light of your words as you tell a story. There is no greater satisfaction than watching your passion for storytelling grow in the lives of young people as they experience magic for themselves and share it with others.  In the words of Jane Yolen, “Touch magic…. pass it on!”

Having discovered the power and magic of storytelling myself, I wanted to share this experience with my middle school students. So in the spring of 1987, I put a notice of an after school storytelling club on the morning announcements. Fifteen students signed up, thus began the “Chatterton Talespinners.” The weekly meetings continued for seventeen years and resulted in publishing, Raising Voices: Creating Youth Storytelling Groups and Troupes. Coauthored with Kevin Cordi, the book has received numerous awards and inspired others to share their love of storytelling with young people.

When I initiated Talespinners my goals were small. I wanted my students to feel the same excitement and sense of accomplishment that I did telling stories. My mother was in a nursing home at the time, and I wanted bring my students there to entertain the residents. Besides running the middle school library, I was also working a day and a half in one of the three elementary schools in our school district. I wanted to bring the Talespinners to my elementary building. The group met Wednesdays after school for an hour, beginning in March and ended with a party in June. Together we grew and learned from one another.

Over the years I found various activities and techniques for helping my kids to become comfortable in front of an audience, learn new stories, coach one another, speak into a microphone and most difficult – keep practicing the same story over and over until it melted like honey on the tongue. As the kids practiced, their stories became richer, their confidence grew and their support for one another strengthened.

One Talespinner will hold a place in my heart forever. Travis was a gawky kid who had difficulty getting his words out whether it was a story or simple conversation. He didn’t seem to have any friends. Over the three years Travis belonged to Talespinners, the other students included him, worked with him, and cheered him on as tried for 10 minutes to say something into a microphone.  When Travis graduated, he not only had friends but the confidence to get up in front of an audience and say “How’re you all doing today?” and let the story flow from his lips.

Although I retired from teaching seven years ago and had to give up my beloved Talespinners, it’s been my mission to pass on the joy and magic of storytelling to teachers, librarians, storytellers, and youth. As I tell folks who purchase my book, attend one of my workshops, and now my Blog friends – I give lifetime tech support to those who work with youth tellers!

About Judy

“Judy Sima is considered the Pied Piper of storytelling in the Metropolitan Detroit area. More than any other single storyteller, Judy has helped to foster and cultivate the next generation of storytellers. Judy’s love of story is infectious and she has willingly shared her talents, her resources and her enthusiasm throughout the North Central region and beyond.” (NSN Oracle Award) A leading authority on youth storytelling, she co-authored, Raising Voices: Creating Youth Storytelling Groups and Troupes, considered to be a “Must Have” for anyone working with youth storytellers and may be ordered from Judy’s website.

Contact Judy

Website: www.JudySima.com

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