During the ancient times in Rwandan society, storytelling was incorporated within festivals and ceremonies at social gatherings just like the music and dance aspect. With the wave of civilization, gradually the art of storytelling seems to have turned out to be a story itself.
Education Times caught up with Juliet Hutchings, a storyteller, who is reviving the art of storytelling to children and adults at Kigali Public Library.
“I was so excited when the library was opened because my favourite place in the world is a library. Ever since I was little, my mother did story hour for me and my friends until I was ten years old. My background in school is storytelling because I studied filmmaking and photography. So l love telling stories,” Hutchings narrates.
During the storytelling sessions, the joyous and humorous Hutchings sings and dances with the children as a way of attracting their attention and retaining it.
“It made perfect sense to come to the library to offer my services as a professional story teller so that the children would also learn and love to tell stories,” Hutchings expresses.
The 39-year- old Hutchings volunteers as a storyteller at the Kigali Public Library every Monday from 10:00am to 11:00am. She does the storytelling in English.
“I would love to have more Rwandans coming for these sessions because right now we have more expatriates (and their children) coming for the sessions. We need more Rwandan children and parents to embrace the art of storytelling and they should come in big numbers for the storytelling sessions here (at the Kigali Public Library),” Hutchings emphasises.
She said: “I love the way human beings in every culture have some traditional stories so by doing these storytelling sessions, I also wanted to find out more about Rwandan stories. I believed this would give me access to people in the Rwandan community. I also do it because I know how much we learn whether we are children or adults, from these stories.”
She also said that storytelling helps children learn a lot of things without realising it.
“There is a tradition involved in storytelling and it’s a fun way to spend my Monday mornings because I love children so much. I would gladly request parents to bring their children for the storytelling sessions because it is completely free and it’s a great chance for a child to develop friendships as well as speaking skills, learn shapes, colours and numbers thus know the basics of reading,” Hutchings reveals.
The story telling sessions on Mondays are for children aged 0-5year olds and soon on Wednesday afternoons from 3:45pm to 4:45pm there will be storytelling sessions for children aged 5 to 10years.
Natalie Pantos, a parent that always brings her three-year-old son for the Monday storytelling sessions said that children explore their world through stories.
“This is a great place for children who have not yet started school to look at pictures, listen to stories. This helps to open their minds and they start to get the idea of a school environment. It is difficult to create a school structure at home as a mum but coming for the storytelling sessions has become a small routine for the children before they actually start school,” Pantos explains.
According to Jennifer Meakin, mother to the three-year-old Joshua, the storytelling sessions help her son to interact with children his age.
“I always read stories to Joshua but during these storytelling sessions, Hutchings points out different things that I don’t usually do for example like doing different animal noises so that the children can learn the different animals better. I always learn different things when I come here for these sessions,” Meakin adds.