Ottawa Children’s Storytelling Festival: Jacqui Du Toit

Jacqui du Toit preparing to tell a story. Photo by Ruth Stewart-Verger. 

Submitted by the Ottawa Children’s Storytelling Festival 

The 27th annual Ottawa Children’s Storytelling Festival runs Nov. 22-27 this year. The festival will be online through Ottawa Public Library’s website and, with limited in-person seating, at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre.

“Stories breathe life into children. That’s what children and youth need right now! — Stories that help them figure out what is happening in their world,” said Jacqui Du Toit. 

Kitchissippi’s storyteller, actor and educator Jacqui Du Toit says takes her audiences on a journey, bridging the gap between reality and imagination. 

“Storytellers open the door and help the audience step into their imagination,” she added.

Listening to stories builds creativity and self-confidence, teaching an appreciation for the arts. It improves memory and concentration — woe betide a parent or grandparent who has tried to skip a paragraph or two in a favourite bedtime story: “But you didn’t say…!!”

Jacqui was born, raised and educated in theatre arts in South Africa. After moving to Ottawa in 2008, she sought out the diversity, colours, and vibrancy of the arts community that she missed from Cape Town. Jacqui set out to become part of the arts scene in Hintonburg and Kitchissippi.

Jacqui’s enthusiasm and love for her craft is infectious. Stories have existed since the beginning of time, and storytelling, in all its formats, around the world, enables “cross-pollination, a weaving of reality and imagination,” she said. 

The Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) school board believes in the power of story as a learning tool that conveys language, culture and a foundation for literacy. The CECCE is partnering with Ottawa StoryTellers, the Ottawa Public Library, and Odawa Native Friendship Centre to produce the festival. Public health restrictions have once again moved the annual festival online, which means that entire classrooms can join in the fun!

Proven to benefit children’s mental and emotional health, storytelling is also an effective way to transmit cultural knowledge, beliefs and values and is a powerful tool for socialization. Storytellers at this year’s festival reflect the experiences, wit and wisdom of Indigenous people, Francophones and Anglophones. By listening to stories from other cultures, children broaden their emotional intelligence and empathy, identifying what feelings they have in common, rather than focusing on differences.

Come hear Jacqui’s tales of that Trickster—Rabbit! Traditional stories from Jacqui’s South African homeland: Tuesday, Nov. 23 at 12:30 p.m. 

The festival runs Nov. 22-27and will be available for free on the Ottawa Public Library’s website Kids’ Zone.

This article was written by Karen Sinclair, local author and storyteller and Karen Fee, storytelling grandmother. Both Karens are members of Ottawa StoryTellers.

Leave a comment