Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Letter from Germaine, re religious concepts in stories, etc.

Attn Lexington Spellbinders

June 30, 2009

Dear Greg,

I enjoyed immensely having the opportunity to lead the first day of your current Spellbinders workshop that included the new volunteers for Jessamine. I’m glad the next two days went well and hope both chapters will benefit from enthusiastic new Spellbinders!

As a result of an email from Paschal, and a conversation with Margo Ratcliffe, it seems there are some things that the Lexington chapter needs to have clarified. I mentioned to you that Margo had asked me about national Spellinders’ position on two items: whether it is okay for Spellbinders to tell stories about Christmas at Christmas-time and also whether a Spellbinder can tell stories at a church or at a venue other than their assigned school classrooms. In Paschal’s email he said there was some controversy in the chapter over some of the points in the Spellbinders Study Notes such as the use of props while storytelling and appropriate places for Spellbinders to tell stories.

Let me address each of these questions. The Study Notes are meant to be suggestions and background information, not to be rigid rules. The only “rules” are in the Standards and Guidelines which must be signed by all Spellbinders. The only item that may need clarification is Study Note #10 where it states “Spellbinders must not discuss religious, political or sexual matters with their listeners.” This shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that a story that touches on a celebration, such as Christmas or Hanukah or Kwanza, should not be told. It only means that the religion behind the story is not to be discussed. Individual chapters can make rules or suggestions beyond that guideline if it is deemed necessary.

In Study Note #9, under the Language and Cultural Considerations topic, it states that the storyteller and the chapter need to be aware of the racial and religious sensitivities of their community and be guided accordingly. In Study Note #11, it is suggested that Spellbinders prepare their audiences to hear their story by telling something at the start of the program about the story such as the culture it comes from or its relationship to the season. In the case of a Christmas story, the storyteller might say something like, “there are many stories that are connected to religious traditions at this time of year, like Christmas and Hanukah and Kwanza. The story I’m going to tell today is a Christmas story.”

Concerning locations where Spellbinders tell stories, public school classrooms and other facilities serving children are the main places that Spellbinders’ mission of nurturing literacy, character and intergenerational community can be fulfilled. This should not preclude individual Spellbinders from storytelling in other community locations where stories are welcomed and can provide a community service. They may do so as volunteers from their chapter or as independent volunteer storytellers. If a Spellbinder wishes to move on from being a volunteer to paid, professional status, that situation is addressed in #11 of the Standards and Guidelines. As to the use of props, have chapter members reread Study Note #10, Setting a Storytelling Mood, which give suggestions about use of props.

The Jeffco Chapter in Colorado, one of our largest and oldest chapters, did a Study Notes Review last year, using one Study Note per monthly meeting as the topic/theme of the meeting. They said it was very helpful to be reminded of things they may have forgotten or not fully understood at the beginning of their storytelling careers.

Lexington Spellbinders is a wonderful chapter and you are poised, with all your new Spellbinders, to make an even greater impact on your community with stories that build literacy, character and the spirit of humanity. I felt privileged to give the first workshop for your new volunteers.

Have a happy summer and a wonderful fall with your chapter.


Germaine Dietsch
Founder, Program Director

Spellbinders mission is to nurture literacy, character
and the spirit of humanity
through the art of oral storytelling


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