Strawberry Park 4th- and 5th-graders tell stories at Bud Werner Memorial Library |

Strawberry Park 4th- and 5th-graders tell stories at Bud Werner Memorial Library

Jack Weinstein

— Sarah Heineke had storytelling jitters,.

The Strawberry Park Elementary School fourth-grader was the first of four members of Strawberry Park Elem­entary Story Sayers Sizzlers to tell a story Wednesday at Bud Werner Memorial Library. It was the first out-of-school performance for the students, who constitute the school's storytelling group.

And Sarah was nervous.

"I've told stories to more people, but I guess it's just hard," she said afterward.

Sarah started, but she had to stop, not wanting to be the first. But after the confidence from a couple of her peers had rubbed off, she was able to start over and told the story of "Thor's Hammer."

She described how the Scandinavian god of thunder lost and regained his magic hammer by outsmarting an enemy.

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Storytelling makes Mea Fisher happy, said the fifth-grader, who told the story, "How the Kangaroo Got his Tail."

Fourth-grader Daisy Thunstrom, who told two stories, "Dr. Wolf" and "The Three Butterflies," said storytelling allows her to put her own spin on the classic tales.

"It's fun because we tell our stories, adjust them," she said. "We really get to tell stories of our own."

That was part of the reason for the formation of the group, which started this year and now has nine fourth- and fifth-grade participants, said Sherry Holland, Strawberry Park's librarian.

Holland also runs the Steamboat Springs chapter of Spellbinders, a national organization that pairs community members with students in schools through storytelling.

She said she thought there was a need for students to become storytellers.

"It's their way to be able to find that outlet, to be able to share that sense of story in their own way," Holland said. "It makes their voice come out."

She said the students in Story Sayers Sizzlers — a name chosen by the students — meet Mondays and Fridays to talk about and practice storytelling. They've told stories to younger classes at Strawberry Park, Holland said, but Wednesday was their first foray outside the school.

Holland said she hopes the youth storytellers program will expand to include children throughout Steamboat in addition to the Strawberry Park students.

That goal is shared by Sarah Kostin, youth services librarian at Bud Werner and a Steamboat Spellbinder.

Kostin said storytelling is an oral tradition that is becoming a lost art. Today, she said, children learn stories from television and the Internet.

"In one sense, it's good, but in another sense, kids are losing their ability to visualize," Kostin said.

And, she added, when children get hooked on stories, they'll seek them out in books, which encourages them to read.

Marianne Capra, a Steam­boat Spellbinder, brought her 4-year-old daughter, Wren, to hear the Story Sayers Sizzlers. Capra said Wren enjoys being told stories.

"I thought, how perfect to hear stories by kids," Capra said. Wren "hears stories from mom and dad, so this is unique. We're hooked on the idea of telling stories without a book in front of you."

Wren said she liked one of the stories but couldn't remember the name. With a reminder from mom, she figured it out.

"Oh yeah, turnips and rabbits," Wren exclaimed.

Fifth-grader Brittany Brown told "Rabbit's Gift," a story about a rabbit and a turnip that is continually passed on to other animals before it ends up back to the rabbit. Brittany said she chose the story because she liked its message.

"The moral of the story is when you give a gift of kindness, it always comes back to you," she said while telling the story. "And that's the end.”