2006-03-09 / Front Page

Storyteller makes a big impression on students

Joada Hiatt, a storyteller from Greer, South Carolina, delighted students, teachers, and parents alike when she visited LCES on Thursday, February 23.

While in Lincolnton, Hiatt used stories to entertain and educate - regaling students and faculty members with a variety of stories during two school assemblies and teaching parents, grandparents, and even greatgrandparents the importance of family storytelling at two workshops held at The Lincoln Center.

In addition to her work as a storyteller, Hiatt also serves as the manager of the Greer branch of the Greenville County Library System. She holds a master's degree in English from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and has been a professional storyteller for 20 years. She has likewise co-authored a book titled "Greer: From Cotton Town to Industrial Center," published by Arcadia Press.

For Hiatt, the reason for telling family stories is expressed succinctly by August, a character in the novel, "The Secret Life of Bees," by Sue Monk Kidd. According to August, "Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here."

During the parent workshops, Hiatt expanded further on the benefits of family storytelling. Basically, storytelling:

Helps younger generations get in touch with their roots which in turn, shapes their identity.

Helps build understanding between generations and respect for the elderly.

Keeps alive the memories of those who have died.

Helps pass on family values, morals, and religious beliefs.

Gives children insight into mistakes made by others and how they dealt with those mistakes. In other words, storytelling can help children cope with their own set of life's problems.

Provides meaningful family time.

Helps children develop listening skills.

Teaches acceptance and tolerance of others by dealing with the differences in people.

Can be used for therapeutic reasons i.e. to foster healing after a loss.

Makes history come alive.

Using a lady's pre-Civil War traveling trunk as a visual aid, Hiatt shared the story of the trunk with the parents gathered at the workshops. The trunk has been in the storyteller's family for generations. In fact, gold was hidden in the trunk during the Civil War.

"We don't know if the gold was hidden from the Union soldiers or from the Confederate soldiers because at the time, my family was living in Kentucky which was neutral," said Hiatt.

Not only has the trunk functioned as a suitcase and a gold depository, it has also been used by Hiatt's family to store baby clothes, books, and magazines. It was a toy chest when she was growing up and now serves as a "surprise chest" for her grandchildren.

She then encouraged those parents present at the workshops to write down their family stories for future generations. "This can be a catalyst for families to sit down together and just enjoy being with each other."

"The comments from those attending the workshops were excellent," said Mollie Wagoner, parent resource coordinator for LCES. "Several parents decided they would become the storytellers for their families."

Julia Mae Leverett, who has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren, said, "I enjoyed this so much that I'm going to go home and write down a story that I told during the workshop. I'm so glad I came. I learned a lot."

Her daughter, Judy Leverett, who is the grandmother of pre-kindergarten student Alexia Norman, said, "I learned a great deal about how to tell stories and find the real meaning behind them."

In conclusion, Wagoner noted that it was a productive day for all involved. "I think the parents and teachers were inspired to take storytelling more seriously; whereas, according to staff reports, the students went home talking about the storyteller and the stories she had told them. Two students even convinced their mother to attend one of the parent workshops after they heard Mrs. Hiatt at LCES. We are very pleased with all of the learning that took place at the workshops and school assemblies. We hope Mrs. Hiatt will visit us again soon."

She went on to point out that the main theme for the Georgia "Bright From the Start" Pre-Kindergarten Program this year is "Strengthening Families."

The storytelling activities were sponsored by the Title I and pre-kindergarten programs at LCES and Lincoln County Family Connection. Joada Hiatt (far left), a storyteller from Greer, South Carolina, visited LCES and The Lincoln Center on Thursday, February 23, to teach students, faculty members, and parents about the importance of storytelling. Pictured with Hiatt and a pre-Civil War trunk, which has been in her family for generations, are: (l-r) Mollie Wagoner, parent resource coordinator for LCES; Judy Leverett; and Julia Mae Leverett.

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