Reporter’s notebook: Storyteller visits James Bickley Elementary School

The storyteller gestured wildly with his hands, his voice undulating high and low, his face like putty, able to morph into a variety of characters.

As his ghost story unfolded, more than 30 students sat cross-legged around him, slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

“You have to experience the story yourself before it can become real for your audience,” Hayes said after shaking hands Thursday with his audience. Some casually refer to him as “Joe.”

Hayes said he travels in and out of New Mexico year-round, sharing folk stories with school-age children as well as with adults. Thursday marked the Sante Fe resident’s third visit to the James Bickley Elementary campus.

James Bickley librarian Charlotte Weyant said Hayes’ tales are educational. They are printed in English and Spanish, the versions side by side on the pages of his novels. His oral presentations are peppered with Spanish phrases; he uses Spanish foods and traditions to spice up the plots of old folk stories.

“I think it’s important for students to know the culture of the southwest,” Weyant said.

She said many in Hayes’ young audiences were bilingual. The presentations give them the opportunity to hear the language they speak at home spoken in a school setting.

Reporter’s notebook was compiled by CNJ staff writer Marlena Hartz. Suggested items may be mailed to Managing Editor Rick White at P.O. Box 1689, Clovis 88102. The e-mail address is: