As part of an ongoing literacy and engagement outreach endeavor, Brian Sturm, associate professor, takes his storytelling class students into the community to share folktales from around the world. His class visits area schools and libraries to share stories with children, and they visit senior centers and other cultural institutions - such as the Morehead Planetarium and the Wilson Library - to share stories with families.
“The art of storytelling,” says Sturm, “is a means of building shared understanding and community. These tales - which have been passed down through the generations and have been distilled to their essential elements - survive only because they speak to fundamental human needs and aspirations that we all share. In early, oral cultures, 'bad' stories simply weren’t retold, and hence the stories that survived had enough impact on their listeners to be perpetuated.”
As the class has progressed over the 13 years Sturm has taught at UNC -SILS, demand for his storytelling students has grown.
Sturm claims, “I get calls all the time seeking storytellers for various events, and I'm often at a loss to find local, professional storytellers to fill these opportunities. That's when the idea of a formal organization began to take shape, and StorySquad was born.”
While still in development, StorySquad is being designed as a community intervention to help young children gain pre-literacy skills, to help older children develop a concept of story structure and build visual literacy skills and imagination, and to help older adults retain their mental agility and imagination and reflect on their lives from new perspectives. Sturm concludes, “When we share stories, whether they are personal stories or folk tales, we open our ideas to each other and make ourselves emotionally vulnerable. In this way, we connect with each other across our often divided perspectives. It is my hope that StorySquad can become a larger initiative that offers cultural organizations a chance to include storytelling and folklore in their outreach and service.”
The StorySquad initiative supports the Innovate@Carolina Roadmap, UNC’s plan to help Carolina become a world leader in launching university-born ideas for the good of society.