To celebrate National Library Week, the Summit County Libraries have invited two guests to give a storytelling performance today and Wednesday.
Denise Gard, a professional storyteller and owner of Story Creations, will read and act out three different stories for audiences at each of the three Summit libraries. Gard's assistant, Sienna, will perform as well - wearing costumes, weaving through the audience and even jumping through hoops. Sienna is a border collie, with three years of experience performing at libraries, schools and day care centers with Gard.
"We've had people bring dogs in before and the kids just love the dogs," said Summit County library associate Rebecca Kane, who arranged for Gard's visit. "I'm excited for this program."
Previous to starting Story Creations, Gard worked as a children's librarian for about eight and a half years with the Pike's Peak Library District. During that time, she saw many performances at the library, of varying capabilities, and eventually she got to thinking, "I could do that."
She started small, doing short performances at nearby libraries, then slowly expanded the business, until it grew enough that she quit her job at the library and threw herself into it full time.
"It combines everything," she said of Story Creations, including her background in theater, knowledge of children's literature, love of performance and love of the children in the audience.
About three years ago, Sienna joined Gard's act. Gard had adopted the border collie as a rescue a while before. Abused by her previous owners, Sienna came to Gard emaciated and with a deep mistrust of adult humans. Slowly, Gard nursed the dog back to health, gaining her trust and revealing the personality beneath.
A suggestion from a friend led Gard to start training Sienna and contemplating adding her to the performances. It didn't take long to see that it was a winning combination. Now, "she is an integral part of the show," Gard says.
"I write a story for her to perform and I put into the story commands that she knows and words that she knows," Gard explained. "I use a lot of audience participation anyway. I am a storyteller who can take any interruption or event and weave it into the story."
Having Sienna as part of her act makes a positive impact on the children in the audience, Gard said. It helps them focus, gives them more interaction and exposes some of the more frightened children to a dog that is calm, trained and well behaved. There's also an additional benefit.
"It's really fun for me," Gard said with a laugh, "because she gets to travel with me and she gets to be with me."
Holding entertaining performances during National Library Week helps draw more people to the library, says Summit County Libraries director Joyce Dierauer.
"It's just a way of getting out some more information about the library in general," she added. "We're here all the time and we're willing to help kids with any school projects they might have."
Children of all ages are encouraged to attend the performance. The event is free of cost to all participants, with cake snacks available at the main library in Frisco.
"It'll be fun," Kane said. "Any time you have dogs and books together, it's a win-win situation."