*for more reviews, see "Performances"

"Our recent residency with the Beauty and the Beast storytellers was one of the best experiences in my ten years in education. The project has reenergized me. The students, in grades 4, 5, and 6 learned so much from the process and stretched themselves immensely. The students in the four classes that participated repeatedly told me they felt it was a privilege to be part of this project. They were proud of their accomplishments and surprised they could actually get up in front of people and tell a story with expression. Parents responded with high praise, mentioning the development of public speaking skills, listening skills, and risk taking.

The excellent stories from Mitch and Martha's books provided a broad range of choices for our students. All kids were able to find a story that was a good fit. The participating classes contained students at a wide variety of educational levels. Mitch and Martha were able to adjust their story coaching to help all kids develop the necessary speaking, listening, and performing skills. The rapport that Mitch and Martha developed with the classes was the key to the success of the residency. Whether individually or one-on-one, the interaction was always positive and upbeat. This was an experience that bears repeating. I have already begun to look at ways that will allow us to bring this residency back to Victor Intermediate School in the future."

Maggie Elliott, Library Media Specialist
Victor Intermediate School
Victor, NY
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We recently had our second residency with Mitch and Martha working with the entire third grade class for a week. I can't say enough in support of this wonderful experience for our students and staff. Ahead of time, we were sent detailed instructions, ideas, and support material including copies of folktales re-written by Beauty and the Beast for kids to tell. Our teachers knew exactly what to expect and how to prepare for the residency. The kids became personally invested even before the residency began by choosing their stories and following the initial steps for learning them.

Once Mitch and Martha arrived and began to interact with us, the magic truly started. They told stories, modeled, taught and inspired. With incredible attention to every individual student, they coached our tellers in voice, gesture and facial expression. With emphasis on support and respect, a wonderful community was established that fostered a successful experience for every child. We were surprised and delighted at the talents, skills, and pride that emerged in both expected and unexpected ways. One teacher remarked, 'I was also amazed at the family involvement that helped to make the storytelling night a success!'

As a storyteller, I appreciate the work of this remarkable team in promoting and enabling new tellers, promoting the art form, and in the creation of many, many re-written stories for young tellers. As a teacher and media specialist, I appreciate the modeling, organization, preparation, materials and community developed for my students and staff. What a wonderful residency we hope to repeat!"

Mary Jo TenEyck, Library Media Specialist
Williamson Elementary School
Williamson, NY
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"Storytelling is an important activity with long-term benefits for kids. I've noticed many young adults in business who lack even basic skills in communicating their ideas to others verbally, particularly to a group. Storytelling gives kids a real jump on acquiring these skills. In addition, it develops something that many practiced speakers lack, namely an ability to use expression and humor to captivate and motivate their audiences.

Speaking and listening skills, both of which storytelling teaches, are crucial for any profession. Yet they are never made a priority in schools in the way that writing and reading skills are. . . An added benefit is that I have rarely seen a bunch of kids so motivated to do a 'school' activity. How can we lose with all these benefits and fun?"

David Barron, Parent
(from a letter written to the Ithaca School District in support of continued funding for storytelling. He had just watched his own child and her classmates tell stories in front of a group of parents and peers.)
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"I would never have imagined that our third grade students could transform into expressive, confident, and capable storytellers in a couple weeks time. The teachers commented on the improvement in some of the children's reading fluency, and everyone witnessed the children blossoming as their confidence grew. Of course, not one of the students was aware that New York State English Language Arts standards were being met, but their listening and speaking for literary response was evident from the onset of the storytelling experience. Our school can't wait until next year's stortelling residency with Beauty and the Beast!"

Kathy Elliott
Teacher Librarian
Burton Street Elementary School
Cazenovia, NY
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"Beauty and the Beast Storytellers integrated storytelling into an interdisciplinary ELA, social studies, and fine arts curriculum in a week-long residency at our elementary school. Our students increased their appreciation and understanding of the diversity and richness of world cultures as they read, told and compared stories from different cultures. Storytelling develops foundational skills for becoming stronger writers as students learn to arrange information in an organized, sequential format, and presentational skills as they tell their stories in an engaging manner. Mitch and Martha not only have honed their craft as storytellers but also as residency experts, providing much support help from the very beginning to the culmination of the experience. I highly recommend them for any similar school experiences! They truly know how to make the best use of instructional time as they engage the students in their art form!"

Mary Jane Todd Eckel
Hendy Avenue School
Elmira, NY
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Sample Letters and Evaluations from Student Tellers

These thank-yous were drawn and written by several third graders at Northeast School in Ithaca, New York to individuals, businesses. and foundations. that supported Beauty & the Beast's storytelling project in Ithaca, NY.

Click on any thank-you to make it bigger.

The following letters of thanks were written by sixth graders at Pomfret Community School (Pomfret, Connecticut) to an anonymous donor who helped to pay for Beauty & the Beast's storytelling residency.

Click on any thank-you to make it bigger.

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"Our grades 3 and 4 students embraced storytelling with tremendous enthusiasm. With little public speaking experience, they were initially over-awed at the prospect of performing in front of an audience of parents without any written support. However, they overcame their fears and rose to the challenge by choosing stories they liked from Mitch and Martha's wonderful world folktale collections. Watching the twenty-minute documentary on the DVD from Children Tell Stories helped them to see that their initial nervousness was perfectly normal and that children in the film who took the chance and told stories looked as if they were having a lot of fun. My students began by rehearsing in front of small audiences of their peers and their parents. With growing confidence, they were quite prepared to hone their skills with the supportive suggestions of Martha and Mitch. The final result was a storytelling extravaganza of which they, their collective parents, and their teachers were all so very proud. As one student said, 'I never thought I could do it, but it was a great experience, and I'm looking forward to doing it again next year!' It was also an experience that taught me a great deal both about how to teach storytelling and how much kids can accomplish with the right attitude towards risk-taking. Even if you are not able to have Mitch and Martha visit your school, their books provide you with all that you need to teach storytelling on your own. Storytelling will become an integral part of my curriculum forever."

Dorothy Walling, Language Arts Teacher, Grades 3 and 4
Julie Heath, Grade 4 Teacher
Roman Pylat, Grade 4 Teacher
Selwyn House School (a private school for boys)
Montreal, Canada
514-931p9481Back to Top

"Mitch and Martha have completed two residencies at the elementary school where I teach, and I can't say enough positive things about their time here. They present skilled performances that are enjoyed by the entire student body. In their week-long residencies they work intensively with third graders. In addition to providing students with important lessons, they bring a sense of joy and playfulness that is a very necessary, but often neglected, aspect of education. The staff and students who are fortunate to work with them look forward to their arrival and are very sad to see them go. The skills the students learn are useful in many subject areas and the experience teaches them not only about stories, but about themselves."

Here are some reactions from the third graders:

"They were helpful, even when we were scared."

"They made us feel comfortable."

"They took you through the steps."

"They encouraged you."

"They were caring."

"I learned that I am better than I thought."

"I didn't know I liked to tell stories."

"If you make a mistake, don't feel bad."

"I learned that very little details make a big difference."

"It was a fun way of learning."

Coleen Caulfield, Library Media Specialist
Harrison Avenue School
Livingston, NJ
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"Mitch and Martha have led a storytelling project in my third grade classroom for the past fourteen years. One of the many wonderful things about the residency is that everyone tells a story! It is rare to see a project that affects each member of a large heterogeneous group in so many positive ways. Mitch and Martha's energy, enthusiasm, and obvious love of stories are catching. The first time the storytelling idea is presented to a class, there are always a few who react with 'I could/would never do that.' Because of Martha and Mitch's well thought out development of needed skills and their positive, supportive, encouraging manner, all kids do participate and do so willingly, and they gain so much from it. After watching their children tell their stories at our culminating evening event, parents always remark about how they themselves are terrified of speaking in public and how inspired they were by the courage of our third graders.

Martha and Mitch's storytelling is one of the most worthwhile and rewarding projects I have had the pleasure of having in my class. They are both excellent teachers who accomplish an incredible amount during their limited time in the classroom. They have two very different styles, and because of that, between the two of them, there's something almost every kid can relate to and connect with. It is the highlight of third grade for these kids, and something they will never forget."

Karen Powers, Third Grade Teacher
Northeast Elementary School
Ithaca, NY
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"The storytelling project was wonderful. By teaching the third graders the art of storytelling, they were exposed to many skills useful in building self-confidence and communication skills. Storytelling is an excellent and imaginative way to introduce the students to the basics of public speaking. By providing the students the opportunity to present their stories in their own words, they learned the invaluable skill of speaking extemporaneously on what they know (the story) vs. learning to recite a script.

I admit I was skeptical that anyone could provide my self-conscious son with a platform where he would agree to "perform" in front of others. The storytelling project with the support of Mitch and Martha and his classroom teacher, did just that, as well as creating an atmosphere where public speaking was actually fun. My son was worried several times throughout the learning of his story that he would embarrass himself, but with gentle guidance he managed to tell his story in a delightful and entertaining way for a captive audience on storytelling night.

Throughout the years my son has been in school, I heard several parents of older children who experienced the program laud Mitch & Martha's storytelling program as invaluable in building self-esteem, self-confidence, and communication skills. I was a definite cynic believing that something as simple as telling a story could prove to be such a powerful learning tool. I thought perhaps these parents merely thought seeing their kids telling a funny little story was "cute." I was proven wrong several times throughout the process and although seeing my kid tell a funny little story was definitely "cute," the skills and self-esteem boost he took away with him allow me to now be a strong supporter of the program. I hope that the program will continue at my son's school and the other elementary schools in the Ithaca area and would love to see it be re-visited once the children are in higher grades. I would recommend it for students of all ages."

Anonymous Parent on an Evaluation Form
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"The third grade storytelling project is one of the most exciting, educational, and inspiring events that children participate in while in elementary school. It builds confidence, public speaking skills, respect for classmates, and a love of storytelling. Besides the story my son chose to tell, he learned many others from listening to his classmates and takes great joy in sharing them while we ride in the car. I volunteer in my son's classroom and was able to observe Mitch and Martha. They are so encouraging and deliver their comments for improvement in a way that supports excellence and self-esteem. No matter what occupations our children pursue they will clearly need to express themselves verbally and with expression, not to mention how important verbal expression is in social situations. I had the chance to watch the progression of skills acquired as the shyest, quietest children learned to open up, use gestures, and tell a story that captured the audience. Yeah, Mitch and Martha! Watching the children during the evening performance brought tears of joy to my eyes."

Casey Carr, Parent
Cayuga Heights School
Ithaca, NY
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"In my role as a third grade classroom teacher in the Ithaca City School District, I worked for ten years with Martha and Mitch and their storytelling program. I am currently the principal at another elementary school in the district where the storytelling program has been a part of the curriculum for many years. I also have three grown children who were a part of this program in their elementary years.

From the perspectives of parent, teacher, and administrator, I firmly believe that the storytelling program as done by Beauty and the Beast Storytellers, not only brings out the best in each and every student, but also teaches them a lifetime skill that continually supports their self-confidence and academic achievement. This program allows even the most at risk and vulnerable students to be successful and to take pride in their achievement. It supports New York State Language Arts Standards for Reading, Writing, Listening, and Speaking in numerous ways, providing an interesting and creative way for students to master many skills.

This program benefits students at all grade levels pre-k through 5. The third graders share their stories throughout the school, with their families, and in the community. I have watched the most shy and withdrawn child become a confident storyteller. I have spoken with countless parents and colleagues who all agree that the Beauty and the Beast Storytelling program is the highlight of the third grade year. As I think of my work with teachers and children daily, I cannot imagine our curriculum continuing to be as strong and positive as it is, without the storytelling program."

Karen Keller, Principal
Belle Sherman Elementary School
Ithaca, NY
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"Continuing the Beauty & the Beast storytelling project is, in my opinion, a MUST! From the moment our daughter came home to tell us she was going to learn how to tell a story and then tell it in front of parents, to numerous times of practicing it at home, to the final moment of standing up in front of an audience, her excitement was practically tangible. What a wonderful asset to give these children the confidence and ability to speak in front of a group, entertaining them all the while. I found it hard to believe I was watching 8 and 9-year-old children perform! They clearly loved the experience. Mitch and Martha gave them a tool to believe in themselves and THAT is priceless. In a time when our children are being measured over and over again on increasingly more complex state assessments, it is refreshing to see that someone has taken the time to teach them a skill that, while not measurable on a 'fill in the bubble' sheet, will remain with them a lifetime."

Lisa Waldrop, Parent
Northeast Elementary School
Ithaca, NY
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"In five days this very talented team turned many of our students on to storytelling. While in residence at Caledonia-Mumford Central School Mitch and Martha worked with eighth- and ninth-grade English classes, a class of selected elementary students, and a public speaking elective class of senior students.

One must give particular credit to their meticulous preparation. Weeks before they arrived they sent guide sheets, letters explaining their work, and copies of suggested stories to faculty members who would be participating in the residency with their classes. Before Mitch and Martha arrived, the kids knew something of the background of storytelling and had some idea of what they would be doing in the workshop sessions; as a result we all were primed and enthused for the week.

Martha and Mitch were also most sensitive to their audiences; that is, they tailored their workshops to the developmental stages of the children, young adults and adults with whom they worked. Our students were receptive because Mitch and Martha were at all times encouraging, supportive, and positive about the efforts of these "fledgling" tale-tellers. They emphasized that one makes a tale his or hers not through absolute memorization but through individual diction, kinetics, and experience. Their evening performance was also tailored to the community; it was a joyous evening of wonderment, hilarity, quiet self-recognition, and good fun."

Norman Gayford, Teacher and Project Coordinator
Caledonia-Mumford, N.Y. Central Schools
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"I really felt good about myself when I told my story. It was like having a dream come true. I thought I was going to hate it, but it was the first thing I actually enjoyed in school except gymnastics. I hope I can tell my story again and again. I'll bet I'll get better and better through the years. We loved how you taught us and told us stories."

Chris, 5th Grader
Montebello Rd. School
Suffern, NY
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"The storytelling program has been immensely popular with all those whose lives it touches in the eight elementary schools in the Ithaca district. Storytelling strengthens the fabric of the elementary language arts curriculum; it has elevated attention to speaking and listening as key components. Years after this experience, children speak with fondness and fervor about their experiences related to this wonderful program. Mitch and Martha, Ithaca's own Beauty and the Beast, make a difference in our school community and are household words."

Randy Ehrenberg, Assistant Superintendant
Ithaca, NY
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"Beauty & the Beast Storytellers have been in residence at our school for the past two years. Each time they worked with eight fourth grade classes. The residency began with two assembly presentations to our school's 387 third and fourth graders. Mitch or Martha then met three times during the week with each fourth grade class. In these meetings the students rehearsed telling a story of their own choice and they practiced gestures and intonations modeled by Mitch and Martha in the assembly and these meetings. The residency culminated with each class presenting a storytelling program for the class' parents.

Mitch and Martha were extremely helpful, cooperative, and adaptable to our unique needs when planning the residency and while they were here. It was remarkably easy to work with them. They related extremely well with our students and faculty. A day into the residency it seemed as if they had been our partners for a long time.

The energy and enthusiasm both artists give to their craft is magnetic. Our students and the faculty were caught up in the spirit and pleasure Mitch and Martha have about storytelling and story listening. They taught us the importance that our voices, our posture, and our expressions have in bringing a story to life and, more important, in capturing an audience's attention.

The students' presentations for their parents were priceless. The students transformed themselves from timid children into pure ham actors. The parents were alternately mesmerized and then unraveled by their own laughter as each storyteller revealed the charm of their story interpretation. Beauty & the Beast Storytellers coaxed our students to reveal their hidden potentials and made it possible for those potentials to become real. For the magical spell they cast upon us, we are extremely grateful."

Kenneth B. Smith, Principal
Coman Hill School, Armonk, NY
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"I highly recommend 'Beauty and the Beast Storytellers'! Mitch and Martha are not only gifted at their craft, but more important, they relate well to children. Both of them possess remarkably good teaching skills and were able to impart not only knowledge and technique to our students, but their level of enthusiasm and obvious love of their work created a very special atmosphere in which the students, who ranged from fourth to eighth graders, flourished.

The assemblies and the evening community performance given by Mitch and Martha were highly entertaining, full of energy and professionalism and extremely well received by the members of our community. Our school board has approved hiring 'Beauty and the Beast' for next year, and extending their residency to two weeks."

Joan M. Moore, 7th Grade Teacher
Hampton Bays Jr. High School
Hampton Bays, NY
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