Life Family

Sunday 16 December 2018

'I've met Irish children who've never even seen a book, and I think that's sad' - Actor who works with kids

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Geraldine Gittens

Geraldine Gittens

“I’ve been at one or two family days out where a child has never even seen a book, and I think that’s sad.”

Full-time children’s storyteller, and trained actor, Stephen Doring (46) meets scores of Irish children every day as part of his job, and takes them on journeys inside their imaginations, just by how he tells them stories.

Storytelling is an art form, he says, which parents can easily tap into with their children if they know how. Storytelling is about using your voice to bring characters alive and introduce children to new worlds.

“I thank my parents for getting me into books at a very early age; I was reading at kindergarten and I remember reading books in first and second class that were ahead for my age.”

“It opens up your whole imagination; your spectrum, your fun. You can make characters out of a book but you can also learn about the world.”

“A video game will teach you certain things but basically I don’t think you learn too much from that. Reading can bring you to the west of Ireland, the Far East, it can bring you anywhere.”

As part of his research for events like Playstival with the Happy Pear, which takes place this weekend, Stephen reads Irish mythology, folklore, and science fiction.

“The attention span of anyone from zero to six years is 30 seconds, and then from six to ten, they will keep listening but they’ve already made up their minds if they like the story or they don’t.”

“The whole aspect of a storyteller is you’re trying to invent something to get people enthralled. I have to keep that audience for the first five to six seconds when I start and then I’m already chasing another story and keeping them interested.”

“What I love about children, particularly when I get a small group. I’ll sit down on the bean bag myself with them. I’ve had a two-year-old and they’ll fall asleep in my arms, and the mother will say ‘thank you, I’ve got 20 minutes peace now’. I’ve had people handing me fivers and tenners into my hand to say ‘thank you’.”

“The lost art of storytelling, like the old sean nós singers, is a dying art. Keeping your audience enthralled, having a beginning, middle and end, is vital.”

 “It’s character-driven, and I think if some people go to the effort of reading the story, it’s very monotonous and boring; if you make it funny and humorous and somewhat different, then they’re interested and they want to know what’s happening.”

His favourite audience, he says, is younger children.

“I had one girl who came up to me and said ‘I can tell a better story than you’.”

“The young, particularly the very young, if it’s a good story, you see it on their faces. They’re listening to everything you say. That’s because I get into character, I make it a funny voice, I really bring it alive for them.”

Playstival with The Happy Pear will take place in Dublin’s Urban Farm Airfield Estate, Overend Avenue, Dundrum, Dublin 14, from 9am - 6pm on Saturday August 11 and Sunday August 12.

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