Volunteer Storyteller Interview: Laura Harris

1. Describe yourself in a nutshell.

I am 39 years old and have eight children. I love to read. I love to travel. I love to learn and experience new things and cultures. I enjoy volunteering with the PTA and at the library.

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

I started doing storytime 13 years and one month ago. The lady in charge of the storytellers at that time was Kathe Homer and she lived down the street from me while I was in high school. She kept saying that I should be a storyteller and I said that I didn’t want to have a brand new baby at storytime (famous last words). I was then expecting my third child and I said that I would start telling stories when he was three months old. Since then, I have had five new babies at storytime. I was interested in being a storyteller because I love to read to my own kids. I also liked the idea of not having overdue fines and free media checkout. Honestly, I can’t really remember if there was one specific thing.

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

I mostly tell stories that I enjoy. After all, who wants to tell a story that they hate? I have done storytimes based on things that I like (poetry), things that my children like (animals, fairy tales, trucks), and things that the children may be doing in their lives (holiday, seasons, new babies, starting school, colors, etc.). I always assume that the same things that make me like a story will also appeal to the children. I try to explain and answer questions as I go because I know that children are sponges for knowledge. I want to increase their knowledge about the world and encourage curiosity. As adults, we have enough experience that we sometimes forget how magical and wonderful the world is to a child.

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

Seeing that a child is enjoying the story as much as I do. Seeing the child’s world expand. Having a child come to storytime who recognizes me and says hi.

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

There aren’t really any absolutes that I can think of other than being able to read and having a desire to share that with children. Find books to read that you love and subjects that interest you. I think that a child can tell if the teller is genuinely interested in the story he or she is telling or the subject that they are talking about. Be yourself. One of the things that I love about the Orem Library is the variety of personalities and interests in the storytellers. Each one brings something that they love to share with the children. Don’t be afraid of the kids. For the most part, they are interested, willing to participate, and very forgiving. You don’t have to be perfect. Be flexible. If something you are doing isn’t working, shift gears. Don’t do the same thing the next time. Never underestimate the value of a movement activity between stories. Use the librarians and the libraries resources. Structure your storytime so that the thing that requires the most attention is first and work down from there so that you are not requiring the most attention at the end of storytime when some of the children’s attention is drifting.

6. 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.?

It is said that children learn to be readers on the laps of their parents. I believe that is true. I was raised by a reading mother who read to us. I have always read to my children and they see me read often. Even the children who have been independently reading for years will sit down and listen to a story that I am reading out loud. Spending so much time at the library makes them comfortable there. They see the library as a good place to be. I really admire parents who take the time to bring their kids to the library, whether or not they love to read themselves. It is an investment in the child’s future.

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