Thursday, January 31, 2008

Black History Month : A Canadian Story

Viola Desmond, ever hear about her? Chances are the stories about this successful Halifax beautician and businesswoman never made it to your newspaper, school texts or storytelling session.

Living in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia in 1946, Viola had gone out to the movies. She got a ticket in the balcony. Since there was a "no-Blacks" rule, she was not allowed a downstairs seat.

And so begins Viola's story. It tells of being arrested for refusing to seat where she was told, fined for stealing 1% amusement tax from the governement for the superior seat and finally sent to prison for 30 days.

Many people know the story of Rosa Parks, another woman who on December 1st 1955 refused to give up her seat to a white customer. This story is told in schools, shared amongst activitists and held up as an important moment in time.

This year tell the story of a woman who brought the plight for social justice to the public eye in Canada. You can be part of this history by sharing the story with your friends, students or people who just like to be part of stories. It's all in the telling!

To learn more visit

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It's a family affair - Happy Family Literacy Day

There was a time when the oral tradition of storytelling was the only way in which stories, be they factual or made up were transmitted throughout the generations by the small pieces of information shared. One major reason for this oral tradition was the inability to read and write. If a picture is worth a thousand words then it would be fair to say that the ability to write those words give you the power to express any picture you can imagine.

Over the past several centuries stories that remain powerful often speak to heros, fairytales, fables, and tales of the weak overcoming oppression. These stories remain to a great extend because they were written down and read out loud to generations of children who then shared them with their children and so on and so on.... This tradition in the form of oral stories often originated from letters, diaries, journals, even songs...

Family stories have this power when shared and cherished. Such a treasure trove of family stories makes it possible to create your own familylore, those stories that define your family's history, your family's experiences.
Be your family's storyteller, the chronicler who recognises and expounds on the uniqueness of your family. Begin or expand your familylore.

Share in the Family Literacy legacy, visit

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Stories As History - Black History Month

February is Black History Month. This year marks the 175 anniversary of the Act to Abolish Slavery in the British Empire (1833-2008). Now right off you begin to wonder about the connection with stories and storytelling. One way we learn about storytelling as with so many other things we do is by watching, listening and appreciating others. To get an ear full of what storytelling can do you could listen to James Earl Jones and his partner Virginia Hamilton. Together they have brought history to thousands of students and adults. I am one of those adults.

Northwestern Ontario in 1991 was the setting for embracing the power of stories. Cold, snow and below zero temperatures encouraged sitting comfortably curled up in a winged chair or floor cushion and reading.

I read the book The People Could Fly
for the first time. Soon I found myself listening to this story on CD and quickly after that giving high school children the opportunity to witness, as a future observer, past events.

No, we can't know what it was like, and no we cannot ignore the experience. But by sharing the telling, we can gain insights into another space and another time.

Check out Canadian Heritage on Black History Month

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Where stories come from

In this season of snow, cold, winds and ice northern New Brunswick is bombarded by the sights and sounds of activities such as tobogganing, snowmobiling, skating. Winter sports are key conversations in coffee shops, hockey being the most talked about. Ah! hockey.

A storyteller shares events in his life and helps you experience them. Roch Carrier, renown Canadian author and formerly the National Librarian of Canada is the quintessential storyteller.

Picture it, rural Quebec, early 1950s. You are a young hockey player and your hero is Maurice Richard. So the story begins;

“The winter’s of my childhood were long long seasons. We lived in three places, the school, the church and the skating rink. But our real life was on the skating rink. Real battles were won on the skating rink, real strength appeared on the skating rink, the real leaders showed themselves on the skating rink.” (Roch Carrier, The Hockey Sweater)

In 'The Hockey Sweater' the reader is witness to the stress of youth, to the limitations that come with being a child. You sense the helplessness the boy feels when his mother insists he wear a Toronto Maple Leaf sweater rather than #9 Montreal Canadiens. How does this young boy explain to his friends that his sweater is now white and blue rather than the red, white and blue.

The teller seeps his reader in the atmosphere of the setting. In the distance you see the ice rink, you can hear the school bells and feel the closed quiet space of the church. The denouement brings a resolution with humour and dignity. How? That's another story.

Enjoy listening to storyteller Roch Carrier share his story with you, visit

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Stories Tell It All!

What is always new, always old and always yours?

Your stories. Whether they begin with "I started out as a child" or "One dark stormy night" stories unveil a moment of truth. For one instant, one infinitesimal space in time it was yours.

Storytime is a time of contemplation, a time to sit with your thoughts, a time that begins and ends with you. No matter where you grew up and no matter how you grew up you were surrounded by stories and these became, at times, and in part, your stories.