On the road with the StoryTellers Guild

By: Elizabeth Scussel | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published April 16, 2014

BIRMINGHAM — On May 1, the StoryTellers Guild is inviting the public to its annual fundraising luncheon.

This year’s event, On the Road to Reading, will begin at 11:30 a.m. at The Community House, 380 S. Bates St. Event proceeds will be used to purchase library books for classrooms visited by the StoryTellers Guild.

Featured guest at the luncheon will be Christopher Canyon, the authorized illustrator of John Denver books — turning Denver’s songs into storybooks.

“We are ecstatic to have Christopher Canyon at our event,” said Linda Wilson. “He is just phenomenal, and he’s bringing his guitar for a sing-along.”

Wilson, of Beverly Hills, is an active reader and school liaison for the StoryTellers, and is also past chair of the guild.

Last April,  the Birmingham-based nonprofit celebrated its 20th anniversary. The guild, founded by the late Helen Southgate Williams, promotes literacy and storytelling in classrooms around metro Detroit. Its mission is to enrich the lives of children through art and storytelling.

From September to June, volunteer readers from the guild visit children in Dearborn, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Madison Heights, Oak Park, Pontiac, Royal Oak, Utica, Warren and Beaumont Hospital. Approximately 40 storytellers read to over 2,000 children per month and use an assortment of outlets to entertain the children.

“Everyone does their own thing,” said Eileen Britsky. “They sing songs, they recite poetry, they use puppets — we show our personality in what we share.”

Britsky, of Troy, is a retired elementary school teacher and council chair for the StoryTellers Guild, and her passion runs deep.

“I love being in the classroom, and the children just get so excited,” Britsky said. “It’s the feedback from the kids that motivates me — it’s the sparkle in their eyes. They get this extra little moment in their days, and it’s the best part of my day.”

Each year, the guild donates hundreds of books to classrooms and libraries in local schools. Books are purchased with donations from fundraisers, foundations and individuals.

The guild is always looking for new volunteers and readers, Wilson said. It also offers programs that educate and train volunteers who work in the classrooms.

“I enjoy the camaraderie with adults and promoting reading with the kids,” said guild member Judy Walsh, of Huntington Woods. “It’s the enjoyment of getting into the classroom, and being able to share the books and experiences with the kids. It’s a win-win for everyone.”

The On the Road to Reading luncheon will also showcase storybook quilts and a special presentation by the Quilt Guild of Metro Detroit, a quilt and book raffle, and a sale featuring Christopher Canyon books.

Tickets to the luncheon are $35 per person, and reservations must be made by April 22. To make reservations, call (248) 554-6594 or visit www.tchserves.org.