Star Turn: Chautauqua Storytelling Activities Headed for the Web
October 3, 2007
URBANA - It's not too late for your kids to take a star turn on YouTube. Bring them out to Crystal Lake Park for the Urbana Park District's Chautauqua celebration on Wednesday, October 10, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. for family storytelling and video improv activities sponsored by the University of Illinois Family Resiliency Center (FRC).

Similar activities at the FRC this summer gave many area kids a chance to shine on the Web; you can still catch their animated creations at Check it out; you won't want to miss the adventures of Fernundias, a furry blue man who eats dirt and rocks, the brainchild of one summer participant.

"We won't be animating Wednesday's storytelling sessions, but the stories will be videotaped and we plan to get them up on YouTube. I think kids will really enjoy participating," said Aaron Ebata, a U of I associate professor of social development.

"Having the opportunity to do this boosts the kids' creativity and gets them excited about expressing themselves," he said.

And, aside from the chance to be a bit famous, a visit to the storytelling studio has other benefits. "Family storytelling is a way to promote literacy and strengthen bonds between family members," said Ebata. "It's also a good way for parents to talk about family history and to illustrate the values that are important to them."

Andrew Quitmeyer, who helped the kids animate their stories this summer, said storytelling gave the kids a way to express their ideas and feelings.

"The kids had all these crazy, great ideas--just a lot of imagination, but at that age--anywhere from six to twelve--their skills at conveying those ideas were really undeveloped. The stories gave them a way to share what they were thinking and feeling. I think it's important for kids to be able to get their voice and ideas across because at that age they can feel pretty powerless," Quitmeyer said.

In fact, many children cast themselves as heroes in their stories--one boy who was fascinated with weather saved his mother from a tornado in his video.

"And some children may have used their stories to express wishes or work through problems," said Katie Pyle, who worked with Quitmeyer at the summer program. "One girl who didn't have any siblings created some for her story. A pair of twins who were having conflict with an older brother became invisible in their story, snuck up on their brother, and scared him."

But one mother offered a testimonial that particularly warmed the hearts of the studio's staff. "At school last year, my son just froze up and got really nervous when he was asked to write anything. During this activity, the floodgates opened. Creating this story, animating it, and performing in it excited him. When he was plotting his story, it was like he couldn't wait to get words down on paper," she said.