Nelson CAPC: “Storytellers” Drop-In Feature Activity

Photo Credit: Unsplash User  Annie Spratt

Photo Credit: Unsplash User Annie Spratt

The community of Nelson has a mobile population, with a number of incoming young families from the BC coast and from Alberta, who use the Resource Centre as a place to build connections and help with stabilizing and settling in the community. About 20 refugee families received their initial placement in the area, but most of these have now moved on to larger urban centres. Poverty and food security are big issues for many of the program participants, where they can access a Food Bank and clothing swap. Families in the program are very accepting and supportive of each other, and the levels of need are not immediately obvious. The program staff members are able to deal quietly on a one-to-one basis with participants to supply vitamins and food support vouchers.

The town centre of Nelson is compact. The Resource Centre is around the corner from the library and it is easier to get around the town centre on foot than by car, with little parking available. This has the advantage of lots of pedestrian traffic in the town centre, with opportunities for people to meet and mingle. Isabelle Herzig, CAPC Regional Coordinator for the Kootenays, notes the success of “Storytellers”, both from the point of view of the children and families, and also from the community, as a way to create and strengthen community connections.

Nicole has a background in community literacy work. The idea for “Storytellers” came partially from that background, but also from her experience facilitating the “Parent-Child Mother Goose” program, using story and song in an oral environment. With “Storytellers”, she is now able to add books, as well, as a component of the interaction.

The community members who come in to lead story time with the children often bring favourite books of their own, or ask Nicole to provide books for them to read, and many of the guests also incorporate oral stories about their life, songs, and rhymes, to engage the children.

Parents and children participate together in the “Storytellers” sessions, and parents model quiet, focused, respectful listening, which sets the tone for the children.

We asked Nicole how she finds her guests. She commented that it is easier than she had thought it might be. She started with a few people she knew, then was given some suggestions by colleagues at the centre where she is based. Now the program is getting known in the community. She uses the children’s interests as a starting point, and has brought in members of the local services (fire, police, transit, etc.) that are recognizable to the children, and guests come from a wide variety of areas within the community. She likes to encourage them to talk about themselves, as well as their roles in the community, so the children can see them as whole individuals.

Nicole shared some highlights from the program so far:

  • A letter carrier, who collects postcards from around the world, came in uniform, straight off his route, to visit the program, bringing samples of his collection with him. As a follow up activity, the children made postcards for him, which were collected in a special post box in the resource centre. He also talked about dogs, an unavoidable feature of a letter carrier’s job. He brought a book about dogs, and talked to the children about the body language of dogs. He is a person who is comfortable with animals and likes dogs, and carries dog treats with him when he is doing his round.

  • A flamenco dancer and teacher, who brought with her an old book of nursery rhymes from her own childhood which she shared and incorporated with movement games for the children.

  • A non-binary community educator, who is a parent in the community, who brought in books to share that incorporate inclusive language.

  • A firefighter who, even though the fire station is less than a block away, drove the fire truck to the station and pulled up outside for the children to enjoy.

  • An actor, who works with youth and runs the local youth theatre, brought in the three favourite books their 21-year-old had kept on their bookshelf from their childhood. This guest, who is used to working with teens, had great engagement skills and ability to control the audience’s attention.

  • A drag queen, who is a parent in the community and has an understanding of the imagination of children, brought in some books they love to read to their own children.

  • A yoga instructor, who incorporated a lot of movement work with the children as part of their presentation.

  • A First Nations educator, who works at the Resource Centre where the program is located.

  • A chef, who came in for Hallowe’en, dressed in a child-friendly costume. They made special snacks with the children in the program that day to celebrate the holiday.

As well, there have been grandparents who have come to tell their stories. The Executive Director of the Resource Centre has come in to share: it was lovely to have the opportunity for the children to get to know her, as they see her around but would not normally have opportunity to interact with her. An upcoming guest is the Police Chief.

Nicole posts on Facebook to let people know who will be speaking, which is helping to attract new families to the program. Regular participants make a point of attending on Wednesdays, as “Storytellers” is a popular event with the children.