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Joan Lind, Spellbinders of Larimer County
Storytelling is good for you based on the results of a healthy aging survey involving members of Spellbinders Oral Storytellers of Larimer County and three other Spellbinder affiliates in Colorado. The survey was prompted by an emphasis on healthy habits for seniors promoted by the World Health Organization, which listed the importance of maintaining mental health, socializing, and physical activity for healthy aging.
Nearly 50% of the 79 respondents were over 70 years of age. The remainder were in their 50’s and 60’s100% of those surveyed said they told their stories to remain active in their communities, and more than 95% said oral storytelling had a positive impact on their mental health and memory.
“All my friends love that I am active and outgoing with storytelling, one Larimer County respondent said. Another said: “Storytelling is my favorite day of the month. It brings me joy to see the smiling faces of the children and teachers who are genuinely happy to see me.”
The Larimer Spellbinders group was formed 14 years ago. In the 2018-19 school year alone, Larimer County storytellers visited 379 kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms in 56 Poudre, Thomas Valley, and Weld County schools. The total audience reached exceeded 68,000 listeners! Most tellers averaged 5-6 classroom visits a month throughout the year. Sessions usually last about 30 minutes.
The arrival of COVID 19 eliminated all in-person classroom visits in 2020 and thus far in 2021. However, almost immediately after the shutdown of in-school attendance, Spellbinder storytellers began working with teachers to offer virtual telling via Microsoft Teams and Google Meets. That continues even now that many children are back in the classroom, maintaining social distancing. Volunteers are still not allowed into the schools at this time.
The Larimer Spellbinders group has trained many of its storytellers in the use of virtual communications technology. Information on the effectiveness of backgrounds, lighting, more effective microphones, and web cameras has enhanced children and storytellers’ experience. Some tellers have also provided recordings of their stories via personal YouTube channels, although these methods have required careful monitoring of story copyrights.
New storytellers participate in 12 hours of training over four weeks. The sessions are usually conducted in September; however, no training has been available since 2019. A new training class is planned this coming fall if local COVID restrictions allow.
For more information about Spellbinders, go to https://spellbinders.org/larimercounty.