Spellbound by the power of books

Storytelling goes way beyond reading – it is all about the experience of sharing, creating and stimulating imagination.

The Foundation for Educational Services is key in organising storytelling sessions on a weekly basis that are not only inspiring to children, but also to their parents and carers. 

Annabel Desira, Parental Empowerment Programmes' Co-ordinator at FES tells me that storytelling is an important facet of their work. ‘Demand for our service is very encouraging. Parents and children tend to tell their friends. Storytellers do not just tell stories. They bring the stories to life through the use of homemade recycled crafts, common objects found in the home, movement games, interactive questions and lively discussions all linked to the story in question. Sessions start with an icebreaking activity that leads to the reading of excerpts from different books in Maltese and is followed by an interactive activity where the children and parents are encouraged to participate.’ 

Although we tend to associate storytelling with children, many adults are hooked onto television dramas, online TV series and other forms of storytelling. However the power of animating a book, one of the original sources of stories is still very strong today. Writing and reading skills are also improved through these sessions. Storytelling is most effective when done regularly, and is a very bonding experience which is not easily forgotten. 

Another advantage of these sessions is the fact that some parents might be at a loss of how to do storytelling with their children and the continuity needed to follow up on what is achieved in these sessions at home. Others might either not be fluent in Maltese or have difficulties in reading and therefore find it difficult to keep up with reading with their children. 

I also spoke to a parent who is also a storyteller. Eleonora Farrugia, 41, started storytelling sessions after attending a course for parents and then furthered her training techniques. ‘I am most keen to work with children aged five to seven, because most children have learnt to read and are truly engaged in the activities we prepare for them. 

One of the activities that was highly successful was inspired by the Goldilocks fable, where I gave the children pictures of items that are mentioned in the story with questions. Each child read out their question and chose another child to answer it. It was a great exercise in reading and understanding.’ 

Storytelling sessions are now being organised all over Malta. These sessions help to re-introduce the branch library to students and parents and change the perception they might have had into a fun environment full of characters for them to explore.