Spellbinders: Nearly 20 years of stories | AspenTimes.com

Spellbinders: Nearly 20 years of stories

Jake Smith
Special to The Aspen Times

Parents and teachers aren’t the only people entertaining the valley’s elementary school students with stories.

Kids between the ages of 6 and 11 probably have already heard of Spellbinders, a Woody Creek-based nonprofit with a mission of telling stories to children.

Spellbinders’ emphasis is primarily on literacy, said Germaine Dietsch, who founded the organization nearly 17 years ago.

“We place a huge value on visual imagery being concentrated in their minds; [it’s] a wonderful adjunct to writing and reading when they can hear a story,” she said.

Storytelling may be primitive, but it is filled with educational aspects for youngsters.

“Here they create the pictures in their own mind, allowing them to be incredibly involved in the story, as opposed to movies and TV,” Dietsch said.

Since opening, Spellbinders has seen growth in both its audiences and certified volunteer orators, or storytellers. Within the past year, 16 new volunteers have passed training, creating a total of 143 residents who have taken Spellbinders workshops. There are currently 25 trained storytelling professionals in the valley.

In classrooms, students meet with storytellers once or twice a month. It’s a large load for the orators because they visit 174 classrooms in only 20 days. But Spellbinders is expanding beyond the school week and is now hosting summer workshops.

Valleywide, Dietsch estimates that the nonprofit’s total audience within the past year was 19,203. Nearly 6,000 of those children heard stories more than once and even up to seven times, creating an impact that inspires many people and leaves a lasting imprint on little minds, Dietsch said.

She became involved with storytelling nearly three decades ago, gaining inspiration from her travels and a storytelling conference in Jonesboro, Tenn. She recalls being “spellbound” by the event.

When Dietsch moved to Denver in the early ’70s, she became more involved in children’s volunteer work and eventually came up with the idea for Spellbinders. It now corresponds with 19 programs nationwide.

Visit Spellbinders on the web at http://www.spellbinders.org or call

922-1444 for further information.

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