Meet the Contributors: Carol Esterreicher

Book Chapter: How to be a Storyteller with Seniors

Carol Esterreicher on How to be a Storyteller for SeniorsHer Thoughts: Stories inspire, entertain, educate, and appeal to all ages. While stereotypically storytelling has been associated with reading picture books to children, it is so much more. We have all been children. As members of the human family we share enough in common that we can enjoy reminiscing over experiences we are likely to share. Mature adults still reflect on stories they have heard in their youth and they readily listen to and enjoy contemporary stories of human interest, historical events and humorous anecdotes.

Stories address a limitless variety of themes and their appeal is everlasting. Storytellers realize that stories have universal appeal and their favorite audiences often include seniors. As we age, access to the arts can become limited as health, finances, and transportation issues intrude. What a wonderful and enriching experience it is when performing artists such as Storytellers choose senior settings as places to share their talents and the uplifting joy that storytelling brings.

Carol Esterreicher dazzles her audiences with Aesop’s fables, urban legends, folktales, character portrayals, and amusing word play versions of fairy tales as well as tender and funny personal stories that resonate with family audiences, and seniors. In 2011, The National Storytelling Network honored her with the prestigious Oracle Award. Her current outreach focuses on senior centers, and both independent and assisted living residences. Explore to learn more.

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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:

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Meet the Contributors: Glenda Bonin

Glenda Bonin- How to be a storyteller. Book Chapter: How to be a Storyteller for Family Audiences

Her Thoughts:  I never planned to become a storyteller, but I’m certainly glad storytelling found me.

I was first introduced to storytelling years ago when my children were young and we lived in Matawan, New Jersey. I approached our local librarian to ask if I could register my kids for a story program. She must have recognized a kindred spirit, because by the time I left, I had agreed to help her establish the program she had not yet been able to offer – story time for tots!. After two years as a volunteer, I fell in love with children’s literature and the art of story. Our program grew so much in popularity that I needed to recruit and train six parents to help maintain our busy family program schedule at the library.

Many years later, after being downsized from my “real” job in Arizona, I found myself thinking about the happy and wonderful time I had when I was a volunteer at the Matawan library. I learned about the National Storytelling Network (then known by another name), and I started to find out if it might be possible to become a full-time storyteller. I went back to my “roots,” and talked to local librarians about the state of the art. I sought out storytellers in the area, and I discovered Sean Buvala and on the Internet.

The rest, as they say, is history. After “paying my dues” again as a volunteer and venturing out to tell stories for all kinds of venues, I found myself in business as a full-time storyteller.

It is interesting to note that over the years, I always seem to find myself back in that personally comfortable place of telling stories to children and families. This is my touchstone audience – the group where I started to learn my craft. Family audiences are by no means the only area where I enjoy such comfort, but I see the family audience as my base, my foundation from where all the other programs I create evolve.

If you like the satisfaction of meeting challenges and constantly learning more about storytelling, I invite you to explore the diversity and electric atmosphere of telling stories to family audiences. You won’t regret it.

Glenda Bonin has been a performer for more than thirty years, and has made her living as a storyteller since 1996. She often tours during the summer months to deliver storytelling shows in libraries and community centers across the country. She is a resident artist in schools, a busy workshop presenter, and a teller of tales at conferences, festivals and special events. Her busy schedule includes performances for adults and seniors, children and families, and people with special needs. Glenda has five different CDs to her credit. Find her website at:

Enjoy Glenda’s video about how to be storyteller:

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Meet the Contributors: Kathy Jessup

Book Chapter: How to Be A Storyteller with Advanced Techniques

Her Thoughts: In our journey to become storytellers, it is logical that we focus first on learning a particular story that we want to share. After all, if we can’t do a good job of remembering the story, who will want to sit and listen to us? However, successfully making it through a story without forgetting anything is not the end of a teller’s learning process; it is only the beginning. Next comes the real work: bringing that story to life with just the right use of language, emotion, and physicality. These are broad categories and they contain a myriad of possibilities.

Seasoned tellers have a way of making a story their own. The language they use to express an image, which a listener then “sees” in their imagination, is deliberate. A storyteller’s choice of descriptive words, phrasing, editing and emphasis makes that telling uniquely personal. Similarly, emotion is also a powerful tool. Through facial expression, voice and body language, tellers engage the listener on a heart-to-heart level. Emotions can be expressed as boldly as a pounding fist, as subtly as a raised eyebrow, or as tenderly as a whispered plea. Too much takes the performance over the top; too little can leave the listener feeling disconnected from the story. Physicality is often used in conveying emotion, but it also comes in to play in other ways during a storytelling performance. How a teller walks, handles the microphone, moves about the stage, stands still, even how they accept applause is all a part of their physical impression on the listener.

The bad news is: even if they rehearse all of the above to perfection, their telling of a story can still be compromised by stage fright, bad acoustics, faulty microphones, unruly audiences, extraneous noise. The list goes on. The good news: storytellers become better storytellers by working through these experiences and absorbing valuable lessons along the way. As the old saying goes: “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

In the end, it is definitely worth the hours of study, learning and practice. Like me, you will soon be addicted to storytelling and story listening. This ancient art form has much to offer…Welcome!

Kathy Jessup: Edmonton children’s writer and storyteller Kathy Jessup is now into her second decade of entertaining audiences. Over the years she’s performed her original tales in countless schools, libraries, concerts and festivals across Canada — from Inuvik to Regina, and from Vancouver to Halifax.

Find her website at

See Kathy tell a story:

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