With the LitSoc Readathon quickly coming up at the end of this month, many new members (including multiple new execs) were very curious about the charity we’re supporting, and what exactly they were all about. O’Day was spent fielding questions and awkwardly admitting, “Oh, well, this is my first Readathon too, so . . . I’m not really sure,” whenever someone asked me questions about the specifics of what would be happening on the day (or even what the charity was called – my brain is horrible at remembering details).
Luckily, Story Factory, the group we’re supporting for Readathon, were very keen to help us out, providing us with any information we might need. So, we at the Publications team came up with five questions that we thought any curious new LitSoc members may have – and Story Factory’s lovely staff provided us with some amazing and informative answers. Whether you’re a first time Readathon participant, or a certified LitSoc veteran, we hope this answers any lingering questions you might have about the Readathon and Story Factory.
Story Factory's mission is to enrich the lives of marginalised young people aged 7-17 through creative writing and storytelling.
Story Factory was established over 10 years ago, with our first creative writing centre opening in Redfern in 2012. We have exponentially grown our impact since this time, including through opening a second creative writing centre in Parramatta in 2018. From working with 950 young people in our first year of operation, we now engage approximately 8,000 young people in our creative writing programs annually. We are excited to have recently extended our reach even further through the national rollout of our new digital creative writing programs.
One of the biggest factors that has changed the communities we support in recent years has been the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused the existing educational gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students in NSW to widen by 6%. Many of the young people we work with are still facing challenges re-engaging in their education and catching up on lost learning. As a result, there is now more demand than ever before for our creative writing programs, which help young people to develop vital skills and bridge learning gaps in a safe, fun and supportive environment.
We are running a whole bunch of fun and exciting creative writing workshops this term, with students writing stories about themes as broad as journeying into the galaxy, spooky campfire stories, epic odysseys through the Australian outback, and reuniting spirits with their lost memories.
One of the programs kids have really engaged in recently is our Creating Cryptids program, in which students learn about cryptids (mythological creatures) around the world, such as the Loch Ness Monster and the Bunyip, and play the part of an acclaimed cryptozoologist as they discover a never-before-seen cryptid.
It is always a highlight of our workshops to watch young people’s imaginations come to life as they write their stories, and start to really see the value of their own voice. We had a lot of fun working with young people at Ruse Public School as they created their own cryptids, and wrote imaginative stories like the one below:
This is the story of how I nearly had proof undeniable of the existence of cryptids. Settle in for the thrilling tale of the one that got away; my account of the almost capture of the toilet ghost. I was determined to get this toilet paper wrapped ghost! I sneaked in, there were 2 stalls.
“Uh… left!” I guessed.
I was right, I saw its badly drawn hand come out from behind the stall door and push it open. I dabbed with excitement. I jumped with my net to try and capture it, but it grabbed my head and it stuffed my arms and legs into the toilet.
“I don’t think this went to plan.”
*flushhhh* It flushed me.
“Yeah, this definitely didn’t go to plan.”
Also I’m still in the water.
“PLEASE HELP M-” *computer turns off*
You’re absolutely right that even small donations make a big difference, and every dollar counts. It’s a bit hard to break down five dollars exactly, but if even five people give five dollars, we would be able to provide young people in our programs with colourful, creative workshop materials. If 11 people give five dollars, this would be enough to support a student to participate in one of our term-long creative writing workshops – a huge impact from a number of small donations.
A commitment to authentic engagement with Indigenous communities and amplification of young Indigenous voices is core to Story Factory’s work. Since opening in 2012, we have worked with over 8,000 Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander young people, making up 16% of our total student enrolments.
Last term, we delivered programs at Redfern Jarjum College, a small local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander primary school we have worked with for many years now. Our Storyteller, Russell Smith, proud descendant of the Ngarrindjeri people, worked with two classes at the school, delivering our term-long ‘Inside Outside’ and ‘Robot Companions’ programs. The students were brimming with ideas and enthusiasm in every workshop, and were supported by our committed volunteer writing tutors to turn these into original written creative pieces, which we published in handsome anthologies and gifted to students, validating their voices and celebrating their achievements.
One of the shyer students in the Year 3/4 class initially found it difficult to get her ideas onto paper, but with the one-on-one support of a volunteer encouraging her, she gradually wrote a thoughtful story about how she became friends with a robot. By the final workshop, she proudly read her story out to her class, showing a huge increase in confidence and learning engagement. An extract of this story can be found below:
I entered school and there they were.
I spoke in a voice that sounded like a curious king cobra.
I made a welcoming noise as I bowed down to him.
I said something nice such as, “wanna be friends?”
I gave them a snack of chicken tenders from KFC with chips and a bread roll to make a homemade burger.
I offered them a glass of frozen raspberry drink.
I invited them to a haunted house because it was my birthday.
We are excited to be working with students at Redfern Jarjum College again this term, and to see the thoughtful, funny and imaginative stories they produce.
We’re looking forward to seeing everybody there (even if you can’t stick out the full 24 hours)!