A community development collaboration in Glenelg Shire Victoria

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The Magic of Storytime

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and associated story time session, ‘The Magic of Storytime’, has become deeply ingrained in the Glenelg Shire, located in southwestern Victoria. These monthly story time sessions bring the community together, with even the Mayor participating. 

United Way Glenelg, which coordinates the Imagination Library in the community, partners with Portland Library to deliver a monthly story time event. These events take place both in the library and at a local aged care facility. Nicole Angelino from UWA Glenelg Shire explains ‘The Magic of Storytime’ engages community partners through themed story time events. In 2022, the chosen theme is ‘Heroes without Capes.’ Local emergency services organisations have enthusiastically participated by reading books to children, bringing equipment to the library for interactive experiences, and providing insights about their emergency services. The use of Imagination Library books generates excitement among children who recognise the books they have at home, while also enhancing parents’ ability to expand on the themes presented in the books. In addition, these sessions aim to discuss and demystify what happens during an emergency. Tanya Flockhart, the librarian, said the children particularly loved the recent session with the Ambulance Service, where they had their blood pressure taken and had the opportunity to listen to their own heartbeat with a stethoscope.  

Tanya has worked in the Portland Library for 8 years and spoke passionately about ‘The Magic of Storytelling’ and its ability to bring the community together. In 2021, the theme was ‘CEOs’ and one particularly popular CEO brought his dog and read to the children from the comfort of a beanbag. “He was absolutely loving the experience, relating to the children, and they really warmed to him,” Tanya explains. Glenelg Shire Mayor, Anita Rank, was another much-loved storyteller.  

“The guest storytellers bring diversity into the storytelling setting – children get to experience male and female storytellers from a wide range of ages, culturally diverse backgrounds and careers,” Tanya explains.  

Roughly 25 to 30 children attend the monthly event and it reaches families who may not otherwise frequent the library, including First Nations families, fathers and grandparents. ‘The Magic of Storytime’ is recognised as a session not to be missed,” explains Tanya.  

In Heyward, ‘The Magic of Storytime’ is run in partnership with a local kindergarten and Aged Care Facility. The monthly storytelling follows the same format as Portland Library. Along with promoting literacy development, these sessions foster intergenerational connections and alleviate the isolation that some residents may feel. In this particular setting, some of the residents actively contribute to story time by reading to the children themselves.  

United Way Glenelg has the invaluable support of Portland Aluminium, who has partnered to help improve literacy in the shire since 2013, through the delivery of the Imagination Library.  

This program has seen one of the highest participation rates nationwide, with over 35,000 books delivered to children aged 0 to 5 years in Glenelg Shire. It has successfully reached out to children and families who may not have had access to books otherwise. 

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Magic of Storytime breakdown 


· United Way Glenelg (key organiser) 

·  Portland Library (provision of space and structure) 

·  Local Emergency Service organisations (guests) 

·  Portland Aluminium (sponsor) 

In Heyward, partners also include: 

·  Heyward Aged Care Facility (space provision and resident participation) 

·  A local kindergarten (children’s transport) 


·  Facilitating and strengthening community connections, benefiting children and their families

·  Encouraging families to visit the library and promoting early literacy 

·  Reaching out to families who may not otherwise attend library events  

·  Assisting in reducing feelings of isolation that some families may experience 

·  The invaluable partnership with Portland Aluminium, supporting children in their development and providing volunteering opportunities for their staff 

The cost: 

·  approximately $200/month 


·  The United Way Glenelg Facebook page 

·  The Council website