Storyteller visits Seeliger Elementary

A story is only as good as its characters, author and storyteller Kendall Haven told Seeliger Elementary students as part of the school's reading week.

"If we care about the characters in the story, we will always like the story, even if nothing happens," Haven said. "In our culture, we don't look at stories very accurately, we look at them backwards. We tend to look at them as plot-based."

Haven presented two assemblies and various in-class workshops teaching the students, through animated storytelling, about the importance of reading and writing.

"He was pretty funny," said second-grader Davey Maire. "Pretty entertaining."

However, it was more than mere entertainment.

"I learned how to write a story," Maire said.

Haven walked them through the four major steps of writing a story.

He said an author must first determine the characters, then decide what the characters want to achieve.

Next, a set of obstacles are set in place and finally, the details can be filled in.

"That was excellent," said Carol Antila, combined first-and second-grade teacher. "That's something we're always working on with them, writing clear and concise stories."

After the workshop Antila and her teaching partner, Sydney Hannon, had the students formulate ideas for a story following the pattern set up by Haven.

"It was cute because one of the kids came up with this idea. He said, 'Let's write the story, too,'" Antila said. "So obviously, they enjoyed (the presentation)."

Haven has been a professional storyteller for 18 years, although it was not what he had planned on becoming.

"My doctorate is in oceanography," Haven said. "It's very cold and detached."

He said he started composing stories and telling them to his nieces and nephews and found he enjoyed it.

"I realized how powerful stories are and how much that power is amplified when that story is told out loud," Haven said.

He started writing his own books about seven years ago.

Lorie Schaefer, literacy coordinator at Seeliger, said she was excited to learn that Haven was coming to the school and was impressed with his performance.

"He told a story for 45 minutes and he had the kids in the palm of his hand," Schaefer said. "The lunchroom was full and you could have heard a pin drop."

As part of Reading Week, Seeliger also held a Family Reading Night Tuesday featuring Haven and State Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City.

The students are also challenged to read 75,000 minutes at home during the week, about 100 minutes per child.

March is Nevada Reading Month and each school chooses one week of the month to dedicate to reading.


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