Grandparents, Grand Stories

According to the AARP Foundation, across the United States almost 5.8 million children are living in grandparents’ homes, with more than 2.5 million grandparents assuming responsibility for these children. Grandparents are often isolated in their endeavors; they report a lack of information, resources, and benefits to successfully fulfill their caregiver role. Armed with these statistics and anecdotal evidence from community members, I gathered a team of staff members to figure out a way the library could celebrate these grand families. The team agreed on a simple mission statement to direct our efforts: it is through the infinite wisdom and experience of their elders that children learn the unique cultural and familial values that help them grow into valuable contributors of the community. After meeting with different agencies and groups across the County, we saw a unique need the library could fulfill--a space where grandparents could share their stories. Our goal was a series of programs that would highlight a variety of methods of storytelling. Grandparents, Grand Stories was born. 


We began with storytelling through film. In partnership with MetroEast Community Media, Midland and North Portland libraries hosted media camps for teens and their grandparents. Our internal tag line for the media camp was simple and spoke to the team’s main objective: “You are a Storyteller, Come Share Your Story.” We wanted grand families to feel empowered to share their voice with the community. Each participant also had the added bonus of learning great technology skills. Jennifer Dynes, Education Director at MetroEast Community Media, reflected on the experience:

As a filmmaker, I learned so much by working with the families of the Grandparents, Grand Stories media camp. Sure, there were the usual lights, camera and action. Of course each participant learned about lighting and audio and interview technique. But when I look back on this camp, I recall a summer filled with more than basic filmmaking workshops. I recall a summer filled with laughter, stories, new friends and revelations about the experiences that make us who we are. In meeting these families and hearing the stories each person told, I glimpsed the connections that we all have with each other.  Families are the fabric that holds us together, and grandparents are often the weavers of this fabric. I am humbled  by the commitment and deep love that I saw each grandparent display to their grandchildren, both in action and in words. I hope that I can carry this lesson to my own family and one day live up to their example.  And I am proud to help bring these stories to you.  

The other forms of storytelling the team chose to focus on were storytelling through music, dance, spoken word, and written word.  Throughout the month of September look for other Grandparents, Grand Stories  programs at a location near you.

AARP fact sheet

See more videos from participants

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