Tell me a story! Toronto Storytelling Festival

March 18, 2013 | Monika

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Toronto Storytelling Festival 2013

"The love for a good story, well told, lies deep in every human heart." (Lillian H. Smith)

We are all storytellers! When you regale friends with anecdotes about your mosquito-plagued camping adventures, or hear your child's account of classroom shenanigans, or sit with a grandparent who reminisces about growing up in the old are telling and hearing stories.

Stories are universal, timeless, essential to how we see and understand the world. We start telling our children stories when we bounce them on our knee and recite a nursery rhyme. These are tiny, perfect stories with a beginning, a middle and an end.


Humpty Dumpty


Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king's horses, and all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty together again


Of course, if your little one asks what happened to Humpty after that, you're on your own. Make up a new story. Omelette?




I had a kindergarten class visit once in my library branch, and told the children that it was time for a story. One of the children asked me where my book was, and I told him that this was a story that I had in my head. They could make up the pictures in their imaginations while they listened.

The oral tradition of storytelling is ancient and fascinating. Storytellers tell traditional tales, original stories, fairy tales, true-life stories, epic poems. The common elements are the voice of the teller and the ears of the listener. It's a unique shared experience which crosses cultures, ages, times and places.

Toronto Public Library has a long and distinguished history of children's services and storytelling. There have been many talented and dedicated librarians whose skill and passion for sharing stories enriched the lives of countless children since Lillian H. Smith established a new Children's Department in 1912.

  Waiting for Story time

Here is the old Central Library at College and St. George, around 1921, with children patiently waiting for storytime. No TV, no computers!

Other influential Toronto Public Library storyteller-librarians have included Alice Kane, co-founder of the Storytellers School of Toronto, now Storytelling Toronto, and Dr. Rita Cox, who in 1997 was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her contribution to storytelling and literacy.

Alice Kane. Tales of WonderAlice Kane passed away in 2003, but thanks to StorySave, some of her stories have been recorded and are available to us today on CD.

Dr. Cox will be telling at the Festival this year, a wonderful treat!

We were also fortunate a few years ago to have Dan Yashinsky as our Storyteller-in-Residence. Dan co-founded the Storyteller's School of Toronto, began the long-running 1001 Friday Nights of Storytelling, and founded the Toronto Storytelling Festival.

See and hear Dan at TPL's Keep Toronto Reading Festival in April!

 Happily, the storytelling tradition continues today at Toronto Public Library, with younger staff mentored by the more experienced, and training programs offered in-house, and by Storytelling Toronto. Gerrard Ashdale branch holds an annual Summer Storytelling Evening in July, an opportunity for library staff to tell stories to the community - this year will be the 8th anniversary.

For children at home, the library offers 'Dial a Story', with stories to listen to over the phone, in more than a dozen languages.

The library's collection reflects this commitment to storytelling with a wide range of traditional and original tales, and books on the history and technique of storytelling. Here are a few titles, including some of my favourites.

Nearly Nonsense Hodja Tales from Turkey           Collected Folk Tales            Fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm

   The Dreamer Awakes Ten small tales   Suddenly they heard footsteps

Telling tales Storytelling in the family           Art of Storytelling            Ten traditional tellers

One of the highlights of the storyteller's year in Toronto is the Toronto Storytelling Festival. This year marks its 35th anniversary, and as always, there will be a wealth of programs for all ages. Storytelling isn't just for kids - check out the program for a variety of adult sessions. Of course, there will also be wonderful family programs by members of Storytellers for Children.

This year's Festival roster includes Canadian and internationally renowned tellers. It's a rare opportunity to see and hear so many special guests in one short week. Many of the concerts and workshops will be held at the beautiful new Daniels Spectrum, in the heart of Regent Park.

Some of the performances are free, others are ticketed. You can order tickets online through the Festival's website. They're going fast, so don't delay.

Snip, snap, snout. My tale's told out!