Story Mobs Bring Childhood Books to Life
Gretel Meyer Odell created Story Mobs as her project in Landmark’s Self-Expression and Leadership Program. Judi Romaine of Landmark News caught up with her and asked her a range of questions about this unique concept.
WHAT’S A STORY MOB?
A Storymob is what you get when you take a flash mob and mash it up with a great book. Imagine it’s like going to the Rocky Horror Picture Show except you’re there to read a beloved story. You dress up as a favorite character, bring props, shout out lines, bringing all the joy and love you have for the story into a community of participants and onlookers.
StoryMobs was created in my Self Expression and Leadership Program Classroom. Coming into the program, I’d envisioned that I would create an event to bring children and families together with costuming and dress-up (the focus of my business) as a key element. Initially I envisioned costume parades, but I was looking for something to have a bigger, broader impact and be truly unique.
That’s where literacy showed up. The last piece of the puzzle fell into place in my Self-Expression and Leadership Program coaching group circle when the idea of incorporating the flash mob concept ignited. Early in the project I enrolled and registered a fantastic woman who became my StoryMobs partner in leadership. Together we began to envision family-friendly story mobs that not only allowed kids, but adults as well, to celebrate books and stories from their childhood in this format.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
StoryMobs are scheduled and promoted mainly through social media, our website (www.storymobs.ca), our growing mailing list and through the media. The date, book and details for possible ways to prepare are made available online, but the final location remains secret until 24 before each StoryMob. On the day, participants of all ages meet up in a semi-secluded public space. They come from all directions, carrying bags and bundles or wearing costumes. A huge array of splendid creativity comes with them. For those who have not prepared or came uncertain about what to expect, we always have extra prop and costume items they can borrow. It’s exciting, as we never know how many people will show up. We welcome them all and have a practice run, going over for them the ways they can participate .
An example would be the book “Where The Wild Things Are “ (by Maurice Sendak) where we practiced ‘roaring our terrible roars and gnashing our terrible teeth’. We run through the entire story twice, which is loads of fun and gives everyone a chance to discover what fun it is and that there is plenty they can do to participate.
Finally, we parade to our intended StoryMob location and surprise the passersby with a raucous, joyous community reading of a beloved story. After the story ends, we promptly disperse, leaving onlookers with smiles, nostalgia and joy in their hearts.
WHAT HAVE OTHERS GOTTEN FROM STORY MOBS?
Families and children have found something engaging and creative to share together that brings the love of books to a new height. So far the stories we have chosen have appeal to all generations and bring all ages together.
WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN FROM STORY MOBS?
Previously, the literacy community was not on my map. Through this project, I now have a new circle of people I participate with who are committed to literacy. I am making connections with people who are book lovers, book bloggers, writers, publishers, educators and librarians.
Through the Self-Expression and Leadership Program I learned that I need to lift my eyes up off the road in front of me and drive with my eyes on where I am going in life. I have embraced the possibility that I can just jump in and follow my heart as creative opportunities present themselves. In doing that, the things that have been stopping me sort themselves out and the road comes up to meet my feet.
WHAT ARE THE LONG RANGE GOALS FOR STORY MOBS?
To become an international phenomenon with StoryMobs happening all around the world, in all languages. Our web site, (www.Storymobs.ca) will be StoryMobs Central, and StoryMobs will be known as something that makes a profound difference in literacy, creativity and community worldwide. We will find the sponsorship we need to grow, while always keeping our events free for all participants. The scope of StoryMobs will grow beyond children’s books to include adult literature and to celebrate unexpected forms of the written word.
To find out how you can participate in and share StoryMobs, go to www.StoryMobs.ca. or contact Gretel Meyer Odell at [email protected] Additional information can be found at Facebook – Story Mobs Project and Twitter – Storymobs.
Pictures by Colin Carlton, Allison Caroline Smith and Rob Harding.