Our Purpose: Through the art of oral storytelling, Spellbinders® enhances literacy, encourages character development, and builds intergenerational community.
In the early 1980s Spellbinders’ founder Germaine Dietsch became alarmed at the growing disconnect between the generations as more and more older adults moved into retirement communities. She feared this trend would deprive elders of the sense of meaning and purpose important to their physical and emotional health, and deprive youngsters of the sources of wisdom and talent her own relatives and neighbors had been.
At age 51, Germaine earned a Masters Degree in Theater Arts and a Certificate in Gerontology with the intention of finding ways to encourage older adults to remain creatively engaged in their communities.
In 1988 Germaine developed a pilot intergenerational program with Denver Public Schools. She recruited a group of seniors to be trained in the art of storytelling by professional storytellers, and to then tell stories in elementary school classrooms. The program was an immediate success; the seniors loved their connection to children and the children loved the seniors and their stories.
In 1990, the Volunteer Services Office of Denver Public Schools began sponsoring workshops to train more volunteers to tell stories in more schools. Soon there were 20 storytelling volunteers who dubbed themselves “Spellbinders” due to story’s ability to keep children spellbound. In 1991 they received a Colorado Association of Partners in Education award.
In 1997, Spellbinders became a Colorado non-profit corporation with the goal of establishing Spellbinders volunteer storytelling chapters around the country. The national office offers the materials, methods and sometimes seed funding necessary to start a Spellbinders chapter, while chapters train and place volunteers.
Today Spellbinders has 18 chapters in six states and Canada. During the 2013-2014 school year, Spellbinders volunteers told stories to an audience of more than 434,000 children in nearly 2,614 classrooms, libraries and other venues.