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Storytelling, for the younger audience, at Leechburg Public Library

Alan Irvine
Pittsburgh-based storyteller Alan Irvine, an outreach performer for the Pittsburgh Children's Museum, will perform at the Leechburg Public Library on Dec. 18, 2012. Courtesy of Alan Irvine

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Christmas Stories

What: Storytelling event for children with Alan Irvine

When: 6-7 p.m. Dec. 18

Admission: Free-will donation accepted

Where: Leechburg Public Library

Details: 724-845-1911;; registration deadline Dec.13

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By Julie Martin
Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012, 8:59 p.m.

Santa Claus isn't the only one making a list and checking it twice this time of year. Alan Irvine is, too.

But the Pittsburgh-based storyteller isn't concerned with who's naughty or nice. He is interested in selecting the best stories for the audience at his program at the Leechburg Public Library.

“I almost never go into a program with the exact stories picked out,” Irvine says. “I'll come in and say ‘here's a dozen stories that may work'.”

A professional storyteller, Irvine is an outreach performer at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum and also presents at schools, libraries and universities throughout the year. He often takes part in local and international storytelling festivals.

Based on his audience, Levine says, he'll pick three stories for his program, which runs from 6 to 7 p.m. Dec.18. The program is geared toward kids in kindergarten through third grade. The registration deadline is Dec. 13.

For the holidays, Irvine says, his selections can include a range of tales, but all will share one thing in common — they'll offer a refreshing alternative to typical holiday events.

Storytelling, which he does without a script, offers a different experience from someone reading a story, according to Levine.

“There's not the book between me and the audience. I can gauge the audience response,” he says.

“With storytelling, it's very much focused on the audience, and the story can shift and change depending on what happens. The story is really unfolding in the audience's head. In essence, I'm really prompting them creating. It's an art form that brings the audience in the process, as opposed to watching a movie where you sit back and watch the creative work.”

The tales he tells might include literary classics like O. Henry's “Gift of the Magi” or scary (but not too scary) Christmas ghost stories, which are, according to Levine, a popular English tradition.

According to Sue Gero, president of the library's board of directors, local parents are “very enthusiastic” about the storytelling event.

“We're just very excited to having Alan Irvine coming, and we're hoping for a good turnout,” she says.

Leechburg Public Library librarian Joe Kantor is anticipating the event, too. While it's not the first time that a storyteller has visited the library, it is the first time the library will host Irvine.

“I look forward to hearing his storytelling, but I think the best part is the reaction of the children to the stories,” Kantor says.

“Irvine's appearance is one more step in our effort to revive Leechburg Public Library through a variety of programs. We hope to build on this through 2013, including a summer reading program still in the planning stages.”

In addition to the storytelling event and the reading program, Kantor notes, other upcoming children's programs include those for Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day and the possible creation of a Magic Club.

Efforts aren't limited to the younger set. Kantor says the library is working with the Leechburg Rotary Club to create a large-print book collection. In addition to the Rotary Club, Kantor says, Leechburg Area School District has been a vital part of the library's success, historically — providing space for the library and partnering with it since 1926 — and, more recently, with its efforts to expand and grow its programs.

According to Gero and Kantor, those at the library are always interested in new suggestions and ideas.

“You'll hear something completely different at this program, some folk tales, some classic stories,” the storyteller says. “It will be fun. It will be something completely different.”

Julie Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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