Meet the Contributors: Elly Reidy

Elly Reidy on how to be a storyteller in library settings. Book Chapter: How to be a Storyteller in Library Settings.

Her Thoughts: I’ve been thinking about “The Power of a Story.”

I’ve worked in a public library most of my professional life and I thoroughly love what I do for a living. I like kids. I think they are funny, creative and amazing, and they are the most honest of all humans. Pouring stories into their minds and watching them “get it” is pure delight.

As they get older, I can indulge my enjoyment of puppetry by creating a character that “tells” the story for me. My sock puppet, Stephanie, is so popular at one school that if I don’t bring her with me I may as well have not come! But the best thing about being a library storyteller is to see how one story can spark children to pursue reading.

The entire second grade from a school walked to the library every third Wednesday for their “Library Day.” That was about 80 students and the teachers. The “Library Day” was an hour that included a story time and the opportunity to check out books. Their teachers had found some women in the community to sew fabric bags for each child. These were large enough to hold about five books. Each bag also had a small pocket for the library card. These teachers were serious about reading!

I was usually their story time reader. One time, I decided to tell the story of “Tacky the Penguin” by Helen Lester, (Houghton Mifflin, 1988). I used silly voices for the characters, sang the song off key and acted out some of Tacky’s antics.

The performance waslike a match to some dry grass in the students’s minds.

The students wanted to read the story themselves. We pulled all the copies of that book off the shelf and into the arms of the children. We found all the titles in the series. We had to go into storage and pull every copy of every “Tacky” book we owned. It didn’t stop there.

On their next library visit, they asked me to tell the story again. They wanted to check out the books again. We had to go into the circulation department and collect all the books to be shared out to those who hadn’t gotten one the first time. This went on all year.

On the day of their last visit before school let out for summer break, I told them to tell me the story of “Tacky the Penguin.” They did so with complete joy and abandon.

It was one story, 80 kids, one school year making readers for life. It’s what I do.

Elly Reidy has 27 years of experience working with children in schools, churches, civic events and libraries, and has worked as a storyteller since 1998. She is a three-time member of the Nu Wa Storytelling Delegation to China, and her on-going association with this project has given her opportunities to share stories in a Chinese village as well as the International School of Beijing, building bridges of understanding via the power of storytelling.

She has been a member of the National Storytelling Network since 2002, and graduated from the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College in 2007. She has led workshops for high school child development classes, Headstart Teacher Inservice Programs, Middle School ESL classes and student and teacher workshops at the International School of Beijing. Find her website at:

About Storyteller

Sean Buvala has been engaged with storytelling and communication since 1986. From kids in classrooms to bosses in boardrooms, from presenting workshops for global salt miners to consulting with Ph.D.’s in pharmaceuticals, Sean has told and taught stories in nearly every industry and setting. He’s been the boss (and janitor) of a non-profit organization and is currently the entrepreneur-in-charge for his work as the “No-Nonsense Storytelling Coach™.”

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