Storytelling is an art, and the members of the Jeffco Spellbinders organization have the art down to a “T.”
The Jeffco chapter of the national organization currently has about 70 storytellers going out to schools, churches and senior centers all over the county, using the ancient art of storytelling to entertain.
Those interested in joining the organization have the chance, with new training starting on Aug. 10.
“The organization itself has been around for about 19 years,” said LaRene Wolfe, the new chapter leader of the Spellbinders. “1999 was when our chapter started.”
Beverly Brayden founded the Jeffco chapter.
The group is made up entirely of volunteers — many of whom are retired teachers — who still have a love for working with children and educating them about the power of words.
“When I was a teacher we had an artist in residence who was a storyteller, and I remember thinking when I retired that’s something I’d like to do,” Wolfe said. “It’s really a great kid fix for teachers who are retired.”
Linda Boettcher, the chapter’s former leader, has been a member since 2001, and said the growth of the organization has been amazing to see.
“We go to places like the grocery store and on walks and we get kids who recognize us,” she said. “We usually have more requests for storytellers than we have people to send.”
According to Boettcher, most of the Spellbinders are known in the community, so they are able to set up partnerships with nearby schools to come and tell stories. The organization does have a volunteer coordinator who works on outreach as well.
Hearing stories not only helps students build up their imagination, but also is a great way to teach students, Wolfe said.
“I try to use stories that are tied into the curriculum of what they’re doing in school,” she said. “We will also point out features of stories like beginning, middle and end, to help them grasp these concepts.”
For those interested in taking part in the program, there is a four-session training process, that adds up to about 12 hours of practice. In the sessions people will learn things like voice projection, gesture, voice changes for characters and keeping a story flowing.
“You have to enjoy a story to tell it well,” Wolfe said.
For Boettcher, being a Spellbinder is a way to give back to the community.
“It’s this great inner-generational relationship,” she said. “Last year about 15,000 students heard our stories, and it’s a great way to connect and contribute to the community.”
Those interested in training for the Jeffco Spellbinders should contact Boettcher at 303-984-2225 or at email@example.com.