Children love to read and be read to, but they also have a wonderful talent for storytelling. However, for some children storytelling doesn’t come easily.
Story Factory, based in Redfern and with recently opened premises in Parramatta, are on a mission to change this through innovative workshops and projects based around creative writing and storytelling in exciting and engaging ways.
Their focus is on marginalised young people, particularly those from Indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds, who have consistently – often catastrophically – lower literacy levels. Story Factory’s innovative teaching model was a first for Australia when they opened their doors in July 2012.
Creative writing workshops for young people aged 7-17 aim to get them excited about writing and tap into their natural creativity, making writing fun and rewarding. Children have the opportunity to work on a wide range of storytelling projects that might include making a podcast, writing a movie script or creating a mini magazine.
One off work-shops are available along with full term projects and residencies, and for larger projects and collaborations between schools, they call in the expertise of institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art, Belvoir Theatre Company, and the Australian Centre of Photography.
In Story Factory work-shops children work under the guidance of an expert storytelling team, with volunteer tutors working with young people one-on-one or in small groups, giving them the personal attention to their writing. The effect can be transformative, helping young people find their voice and returning them to school with the tools and confidence essential for future success.
There are also opportunities for teachers to attend professional learning workshops, so they can take these methods back into the classroom.
Story Factory programs are created with reference to a growing body of international research demonstrating how participation in quality, creative arts experiences can have significant social, emotional and academic benefits for young people, but the idea originated with journalist and founder, Cath Keenan and Tim Dick’s visit to 826 Valencia, a creative writing centre for under resourced young people. 826 Valencia which started in San Francisco, spread throughout the USA in hopes of finding a solution to growing concerns about literacy rates and limited creative opportunities among marginalised children
The Story Factory’s achievements are many, including 16,000 enrolments from young people, with 20% Indigenous and 40% from language backgrounds other than English; Harnessing the power of community to help young people, by building a corps of over 1,050 active, trained volunteers and recognition of their work with multiple awards, including co-founder and executive director, Dr Catherine Keenan, being named 2016 Australian of the Year Local Hero.
If you want to learn more about Story Factory visit their website here and if you have a little reader and story teller at home, then you may want to share with them some of the students’ work here. They regularly update this section, so if you’re child needs some inspiration for their writing or is curious about other writers then this is an interesting page to check out.