The Equity Foundation’s Storyville program sends actors into schools to use their talents bringing children’s books to life. Volunteers Meagan Caratti and Sandy Morrison relish the satisfaction and joy of being involved.
I can still remember my favourite stories mum would read at bedtime, and the regular sessions with Mrs Ross, the librarian at my primary school – not least the fun I had hearing ‘grown ups’ do voices!
Stories help stimulate imagination, encourage communication, and the articulation of feelings.
I love watching children engage, ask questions, join in when it’s really familiar – and I love seeing their excitement at what comes next. Reading aloud to kids also helps their comprehension and perception.
Reading to children is not necessarily part of the at-home routine for many families, but it’s so important for fostering their reading confidence – the earlier the better, and regularly.
This is where programs such as Storyville come in. It’s a true highlight of my week and I love choosing books that enhance what they’re learning about in class, or that talk about how to express emotions, or some books simply for fun because they’re silly and allow the kids themselves to be silly! I always allow space for question time, because the kids really want to talk about what we’ve read and talk about their thoughts and feelings about the plot and characters. It’s also a chance for volunteers to embrace the cold read, with impromptu special requests from the students from the library’s shelves.
I encourage you to get involved. It's so rewarding to share the joy of reading, of words, of language. You really can inspire the next generation ... the enjoyment they reflect back is infectious!
MEAGAN CARATTI IS A NSW-BASED ACTOR, SINGER, PRODUCER AND EDUCATOR, AND A PROUD EQUITY MEMBER SINCE 1997.
Children are the most generous of audiences, willing to suspend their disbelief and be absorbed into the adventure unfolding. They are also brutally honest critics, who will not hesitate to point out when you inadvertently skip a sentence or, for the more eagle-eyed, incorrect punctuation.
I have been part of Storyville for more than a year, and relish this weekly volunteering experience. In an industry that can sometimes leave you with self-doubt, there is something quite special about arriving at a school to be greeted like a rock star, with the children clamouring to tell you the stories of their days’, or holidays, or perhaps about the book they have just read.
Children love having different adults in their world, especially if it is an ongoing and regular relationship. Even if it is a book they have heard or read before, it’s always a new adventure with a different spin. Storyville sessions are a great space for them to sit, chill, with no planned learning goals. They just have to kick back and let their imaginations go wild.
The benefits of being a consistent positive presence in children’s lives cannot be underestimated. Over two terms, I watched children who had difficulty with social engagement and attention move from the back of the class to the front, and go from avoiding eye contact to sharing their honest critique of my reading. Creating a safe environment for them to explore language and story is exciting and essential.
It’s not only the children we get to encourage and motivate. After three terms running the program at Silverton Primary School in Melbourne, the teachers felt inspired to play more with their own reading and aimed to implement more regular storytime. When we get our silly on, it gives others permission to explore their crazy sides too.
At the 2018 Education Show in Melbourne, there was significant interest in the Storyville program from schools across Victoria. They were all keen for their children to be exposed to good old-fashioned storytelling that extended beyond set curriculum. I urge any actor who is looking to engage with a worthwhile volunteer project to commit to a weekly Storyville session at their local school – particularly performers living in outer suburbs or regional areas, where the needs are high. The rewards are universal.
SANDY MORRISON IS A VICTORIAN-BASED ACTOR, SWING DANCER, VOICEOVER ARTIST AND PRESENTER AND A PROUD EQUITY MEMBER SINCE 2015.