Throughout history, stories have been passed down and told from generation to generation. Dorothy Bockerman and Molly Strong hope to continue the skill of storytelling to a new generation with a club at Bellevue Public Library.
“People love a story, period,” Strong said. “It’s just a neat thing about how you can calm down a room of children with a story.”
Strong and Bockerman, members of the Omaha Organization for the Purpose of Storytelling, or OOPS, started the club at Bellevue Public Library last fall. Many of the children participating this spring are repeats from last fall, but there are plenty of new members, too.
“This was just an idea we presented to the library and they embraced it,” Strong said. “It’s the idea of presenting the world of storytelling to young children.”
Bockerman comes from a storytelling family, while Strong took it up as she got older.
“As I was aging, I wanted to have something fun to do that I could do until the day I die,” Strong said.
The children practice telling stories from a wide variety of genres, such as fables, folktales, ballads and historical stories.
Each of the children will give a presentation of their own in April, whether it be presenting a story they read or telling about a story from their own life.
Bockerman describes storytelling class as something like a performance class. Children learn a variety of skills in storytelling, including social skills, public speaking, and learning about different cultures. Maintaining eye contact with the audience is another important skill to remember.
Strong and Bockerman have already noticed an increased confidence in many members of the club.
During the class, which is held each Tuesday from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., Strong and Bockerman speak to the class about different storytelling skills and read a story aloud. Members of the club also break into groups and practice telling stories by picking out a book to read to the other members of their group.
Members of the club range in age from kindergarten to high school, and many of the older members of the club are able to help the younger children with their reading and presentation.
“We started out just asking for third- or fourth-graders and then we said ‘let’s just have it be multi-age,’ and it worked out great,” Strong said.
When the club first started, a group of Bellevue East High School students were hanging out at the library and were interested in joining.
“They’ve been a wonderful asset for us,” Bockerman said of the high school students.
Gabe Kump-Schleig was one of the high school students who joined the club last fall.
“I think it’s a good connection between the kids and getting to know how to talk in front of people,” Kump-Schleig said.
Another East student whose in the club, Emily Smith, mentioned the snacks served at each meeting might have something to do with the club’s appeal as well.
“I think they like the kids and the fact that there’s snacks,” Smith said.