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Storytellers spin tales for elementary classrooms, public events

Story Spinners of Grand Rapids have created an elementary program focusing on fables that they will present in addition to continued appearances at events like Festival of the Arts.
Ed Boer tells fables to elementary children

Ed Boer tells fables to elementary children /Courtesy of Story Spinners

Story Spinners of Grand Rapids

Monthly public meetings at:

Story Cafe

444 Leonard St. NW

To see the group's meeting and event schedule, click here.

For more information, visit Story Spinners website or send them an email.

Gloria Cangelosi explains the elements of fables.

Gloria Cangelosi explains the elements of fables. /Courtesy of Story Spinners

Story Spinners gather to tell stories

Story Spinners gather to tell stories /Courtesy of Story Spinners

Every month, a group of enthusiastic individuals gathers in Grand Rapids to spin yarns and tell tall tales.

Story Spinners of Grand Rapids share personal stories, fables, historical narratives, personal mementos and everything in between. They have been meeting for over four decades to share stories with each other and with interested listeners.

Gloria Cangelosi, a former Grand Rapids Public Schools teacher, has been a Story Spinner for 30 years.

“Storytelling has universal appeal,” she says. “Everybody loves a story. Now that I have grandchildren there’s nothing better than to hear, ‘Grandma, tell me a story.’ I’ll get done with the story and they’ll say, ‘Tell it again.’ There’s something calling in them to hear [stories.]”

In 2013, Cangelosi retired from teaching and partnered with fellow Story Spinner Ed Boer to tell stories to second grade classrooms.

“We just wanted to get Story Spinners out there and there’s no better way than to take stories into schools,” she says. “Stories and learning to read go hand in hand. We developed a fables presentation knowing that any 2nd grade would need to hear fables anyway for Common Core [requirements].”

In 40-minute presentations, Cangelosi teaches children the elements of a fable and Boer follows by demonstrating how to tell a fable. Presentations conclude with an assessment of what the children learned.

Cangelosi says the response so far has been very favorable. The duo has presented in four Byron Center classrooms and at Shawmut Hills Elementary. Cangelosi says they hope to do presentations at East Leonard Elementary and Challenger Elementary in the future.

“Every second grade class is good for fables and last year I taught fifth graders 'tall tales,'” she says. “Kids love hearing stories. The best comment I’ve ever heard is when a kid went back to his teacher and said, ‘Mrs. Cangelosi told the story and she didn’t even have a book!’”

Story Spinners also perform to age-diverse audiences at Festival of the Arts and have told stories at locations including the Grand Rapids Public Museum, Dog Story Theater and Blandford Nature Center. The nonprofit was founded 45 years ago by Master Arts Theatre director Pris McDonald and once boasted upwards of 40 members. The modern group, currently 12 members, holds open monthly meetings at Story Café on Leonard Street. Members are also available to perform at events for a nominal fee.

Cangelosi says that the current group is “older” and needs some “young blood.” While school audiences receive stories gladly, adult audiences have dwindled since the group's inception.

“The public library has talked to us about telling stories at bars in the style of The Moth,” she says. “Fast media is such a big thing now. If we had youthful energy and people were willing to drink and tell stories at a bar, we could experience a resurgence [among adults].”

Cangelosi says she thinks all people, regardless of age, would enjoy participating in storytelling sessions if they gave it a try.

“If you ever sat out in the October sun and listened to people tell stories it’s like nirvana,” she says. “People tell of their experiences and can bring you to tears. You can imagine it all. It’s just wonderful.”

For more information about the Story Spinners visit their website or send Gloria Cangelosi an email.   

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