Volunteer Storyteller Interview: Dalliene Jessop

1. Describe yourself in a nutshell.

I’m a busy mom to five kids, wife to a fantastic guy, involved with PTA and school volunteering (music, art, and sports) church service, early foreign language immersion advocate, grant writer, storyteller, and head cheerleader for my kids and hubby in everything they do. Two kids have left the nest and I’ve got three crazy, energetic boys still at home.

2. How did you first hear about volunteer storytelling? What led to you becoming a volunteer storyteller?

I’ve taken my kids to Orem Library storytimes since my oldest daughter, who’s now 22, was a baby. At first it was something to do to get out of the house but we quickly found several favorite storytellers who seemed to weave magic into their stories for my kids. I’ve loved folk and fairytales since I was a child and after watching Paula Thomas tell her amazing Hans Christian Andersen stories, I felt like it was something I wanted to do!

3. What is your approach to storytelling? How do you come up with your ideas?

My ideas for storytelling usually come from things that are happening in my own life. For example, we are putting up our Halloween decorations right now and all my Halloween books are out, so my theme for this month was Halloween and monsters, including a favorite, Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Lately my dog died and I’ve been missing him, so laptime in September was all about dogs and pets and missing someone you love. I like to use new books, but also lots of materials from the library’s folktale section, of course!

4. What is your favorite part of being a volunteer storyteller?

My favorite part of being a volunteer storyteller is finding new, amazing stories while still getting to tell the classics like The Three Little Pigs. Also, I love to draw the children in to experience the magic of the stories, songs and fingerplays. Sometimes I feel like a bit of Pied Piper; telling a good enough tale that they’ll follow me into the next book, song, or poem that I share.

5. What do you think it takes to make a good storyteller? Any tips or words of advice to offer aspiring storytellers?

Good storytelling for me comes from being able to connect with and draw in my audience. To do that, I have to be very well rehearsed with my stories, fingerplays, songs, etc. so that I can concentrate on how to tell to the particular children who are there that day. That was hard for me the first few years but with practice and some very helpful workshops hosted by the library, I’ve gotten better at engaging my audience. I usually ask for lots of participation in songs, repeating parts of the story, or giving me suggestions. It helps them to feel like they are more a part of the experience than just sitting and listening.

6. Do you have any memorable experiences or stories from your volunteer experience that you would like to share?

Just this week I was doing a rhyming activity—asking kids, “What we should throw in the witches’ pot?” and the very last kid yelled, “BOOGERS!” After we were done stirring (and tasting!) our imaginary potion, I told the parents, “I’m sorry to say that your kids ate boogers at the library today!”

7. Do you have any thoughts on the importance of volunteering or storytelling and how it has influenced your life or your family’s life, etc.?

Stories help us understand the world, and the more tools kids (and all of us!) have to be able to navigate life, the better. They help us remember things, connect with the world, guess what might happen, and learn lessons. One particular story that has been my favorite for as long as I can remember is Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig. It was introduced to me by a wonderful school librarian and it’s such a charming story about wanting lots of things but realizing what’s most important. When Sylvester’s family finally finds each other again, after a long separation, his father locks up the magic pebble and says, “Someday they might want to use it, but really, for now, what more could they wish for? They all had all that they wanted.”

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