Storytelling is one of those age-old traditions that today collects dust as a faint but fond memory of our childhood. And though briefly revived with the birth of our own families, it is again left behind as our children grow too old to sit in bed and listen to us read the sing-along books we collected for them.
For children, listening to stories nurtures emotional connections, empathy and intimacy.
It’s the gasps heard when reading stories like “Maniac Magee,” and it’s the tears that well up towards the end of “Where the Red Fern Grows.”
The benefits of storytelling don’t quit being important at the age of 12, though. As adulthood sets in and further distances us from memories of sitting on the floor of our second-grade classroom, the more these aspects of storytelling transform into an unspoken thirst. We cling to TV series, films, novels, magazines and song lyrics that bring to life the human discourse we first began relating to as children.
But there is something about the act of reading a story out loud and likewise listening to it that Audrey Barbakoff and Tressa Johnson of the Bainbridge Island Public Library are hoping to revive in the island’s adult community.
The two will begin a storytelling series at the newly improved Waterfront Park Community Center starting next week. Every Monday from 1 to 2 p.m., Barbakoff and Johnson will be reading aloud in front of the center’s new fireplace.
“We’re really just putting our toes in the water at this point,” said Johnson, “to see how the community responds to it.”
Johnson has been wanting to put something like this together for quite some time. She used to take her son to storytelling festivals when he was younger. And this, along with the library’s regular storytime sessions for children, encouraged her to give adults on the island the opportunity to enjoy storytelling too.
“It’s about individuals coming together,” she said. “There’s an energy that brings them together that forms a particular mixture of people.”
The sessions will be a chance for adults to come together under the same roof, enjoy a story, eat lunch and socialize with other story-lovers.
And although the storytelling will take place at the senior center, Johnson says that adults of all ages are encouraged to stop in during their lunch break.
“I think our older people and young people, we kind of shove off from each other,” said Johnson. “But here we are sharing together what we all have to offer.”
This Monday, Feb. 4, will start a two-month series of mystery, beginning with Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.”