by Stephanie Hacke, Staff Writer
Kim Adley always has a story to tell.
The 48-year-old Whitehall resident isn't shy when it comes to sharing her love for reading or the imaginative voices and costumes she uses to get kids' attention.
And she has made it a career.
Putting on a black dress with an apron and red cape, using an accent and props, and adding a twist to the traditional story is a great way to get children interested in the story of "Little Red Riding Hood" Adley said.
Adley has spent the last 15 years as a storyteller with her part-time business, "Characters by Kim," visiting schools, libraries and private parties to share her love of books and her imaginative ways to tell a story.
As a teacher in the Brentwood School District for seven years, Adley was able to share her stories with elementary students on a daily basis.
But after her two boys, David and Alex, were born, she made the choice to give up her job to spend time with her sons.
"Teaching elementary school, if you're going to do it the right way, it is extremely demanding," she said. "Fortunately, I was able to stay home."
But Adley quickly learned that she would have a lot of spare time with her boys in school.
"I got that feeling of, 'What am I going to do with myself?'" she said.
So she asked David's kindergarten teacher if she could help in the classroom by telling stories.
When she was given the opportunity, she said, she went all out-- making a costume and props.
"It made the lesson so much more memorable," Adley said.
Her first costume was a scarecrow. The next month, she was asked back to the classroom, so she had to come up with another costume, she said.
The characters evolved from there-- "Spiderella," the spooky, Halloween storyteller; "Sparkling Water," the Indian princess; "Fiona the Irish Lassie," an Irish girl with many folk tales; and Adley's favorite, "The Queen of Hearts," a character from the Mother Goose rhymes that Adley recreated.
Adley now has 15 characters she brings to classrooms and libraries in the Pittsburgh area.
"I guess it was the frustrated teacher in me that wanted to make it memorable," she said.
With every story, Adley said, she tries to teach students a lesson.
"I find that the teacher in me never has gone away," she said. "You don't just come out of there and say 'Oh, that was a good story,' but you learn something too."
Adley adds a theatrical element to her storytelling, she said.
When she's at a location, she doesn't leave character.
"When I'm there, I talk like the Queen of Hearts, I act like the Queen of Hearts," she said.
Adley has been hired for the last several years to perform as the Queen of Hearts for WQED's educational program "Stories Start Action."
The program sends her to eight schools a month in impoverished school districts, where she encourages students to read.
She also hosts workshops for adults to teach them strategies to get children excited about story time.
"To get your kids excited about reading, you have to get excited," she said. "Don't be afraid to use voices and be silly and ask questions."
Telling stories is a fulfilling job for Adley.
"This is my mission," she said. "Books are the ticket to anywhere or anything."
Adley's story times stand out at schools and libraries across the South Hills.
"She brings a lot of energy. Not only is it entertaining, but it's also educational," said Gina Leone, children's librarian at the Baldwin Borough Public Library, where Adley has hosted story time.
"Her costumes are fantastic. They're very original," Leone said. "She handles children extremely well. Not only does she keep them entertained, but she keeps them well-behaved."