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Mary McAleese Launches Threading Tales

Threading Tales is a series of interactive and reflective workshops where participants develop skills of storymaking, telling and recording. The stories emerge from participants’ memories which shape the storysacks. Some stories are for adults while others are ideal for children. This project is about representing Traveller Culture and is a key element of our objective to bring lesser known cultures to broader audiences and readerships

The visit of President Mary McAleese to the Threading Tales exhibition at Kildare Education Centre on St Brigid’s day was the highlight of an inspirational project, which began almost a year ago in the Curragh Camp primary schools.

Threading tales, an arts-based reading development initiative, was conceived and funded by Kildare Library and Arts Service, and is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when imagination, artistic skills and appropriate funding is outreached to a school community.

Threading Tales encompasses a visual patchwork of colour, texture and much loved stories, and is a project that, in it’s own unique way, demonstrates the layers of process and experience that all who became involved with it encountered. While focusing on a central theme of reading development, the fusion of story-making, textiles, art and the human experience engaged our imagination and lifted our senses to share and to inspire.

Threading Tales also translates, through these beautiful sacks, the unity of talent, original thought and the individuality of all the participants, and is in itself, a minute snippet of the biography of the Curragh Community, where the workshops took place.

The collaborative project was set up to promote a culture of reading in the home, to encourage parents and carers to share stories with children and to develop children’s interest in reading. With the vision of Caroline Farrell, KLAS Librarian for the school library service and the support of Lucina Russell, Kildare County Arts Officer, a group of parents from the Curragh Camp Primary schools had a wonderful opportunity to work under the guidance of professional textile artist, Kathleen Delaney.

The parent-participants were organized through the school’s home/school liaison Catherine McGrath, who works with the Curragh Primary Schools under the Department of Education and Science scheme ‘Giving Children an Even Break’. The group had participated in some previous courses and workshops organized by the home school liaison, and were ready for the challenge and commitment needed to see this ambitious project through to completion. Seven storysacks were produced and these will be made available through the library service to the Curragh Community, local schools, educators and interested groups.

Storysacks have been widely used in reading development projects throughout the UK and Canada, and Threading Tales was inspired by the concept first conceived by Neil Griffiths, (email neil@cornertolearn.co.uk. ). A storysack is a cloth bag containing a storybook, with toys to represent the characters from the story, a storyboard, a tape or CD and a non-fiction book that supports the story and encourages dialogue and literacy based activities. Taking the concept a step further, the parents involved in Threading Tales initiative produced storysacks that were not just cloth bags, but works of art in themselves. For example, the book and all the props needed for ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’ are contained in a sack designed to resemble Cruella DeVille’s coat. A large fish in fabulously tactile scaly fabric holds ‘Tom Thumb’. The ‘Puss-n-Boots’ storysack is a funky boot. Other themes are ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’, ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, ‘Poppit’ and, there are no prizes for guessing who hides inside the bright red cloak!

Mary McAleese Launches Meets Ann Carroll and daughters Mary McAleese Meets the Crowe Family

Over eight Tuesdays from April to the end of June, the Curragh Community Library was a hive of activity while workshops were in progress. Participants, led by artist Kathleen Delaney, gained many skills while cutting, sewing and finishing the storysacks, and recognition is given to Lily Burke, Branch Librarian, for enthusiastically welcoming all involved to use the library facilities.

Following the workshops, storytelling sessions, ‘Summer Fun with Storysacks’ were held in the Curragh Community Library. Funded by Breda Gleeson, KLAS County Librarian, each week the County’s Storyteller-in Residence, Susie Minto, used the sacks to demonstrate how they can be used in the home, school or library environment, and to enthral the many young children who attended the sessions with their parents or carers.

Threading Tales has shown what communities can achieve when parents, library and arts services, schools, artists and storytellers can join together in a synergy that identifies, values and nurtures the life skills of it’s adult members. The project also shows the importance of parental involvement in their children’s education, and that a holistic approach to reading development, where families are given the support mechanisms to develop their own unique skills is so intrinsic to a successful outcome. Indeed, children of the participants donated some of the characters contained in these storysacks, and this has ensured that they too feel connected to the storysacks, and can share in the pride and achievements of their parents.

Launching the exhibition of Threading Tales in the Kildare Education Centre, President McAleese congratulated the participants and told the assembled group from the Curragh community, Curragh schools, and Kildare library and arts staff that she was hugely impressed with the skill, creativity and imagination used in creating the storysacks. It was a wonderful experience for all the participants to receive such praise and affirmation from the President.

Parents are justifiably proud of their work, some of which has been on display in Kildare Education Centre. The participants were:

  • Anne Carroll – One Hundred and One Dalmatians
  • Anne Connolly – Poppet
  • Anne Dwyer – Goldilocks and the Three Bears
  • Andrea Lawlor – Tom Thumb
  • Kathleen Crowe – Puss-n-Boots
  • Thelma Dolan – Jack in the Beanstalk
  • Alison Cullen – Little Red Riding Hood

Kildare Library and Arts Services are currently developing phase two of Threading Tales: ‘Pictureogs’.