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Storyteller Extraordinaire

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A recent article in the “Island Reporter” by Ashley Goodman describes yet another special gentleman in our island community:

As soon as Windell Campbell took the stage at the Sanibel Public Library recently, the entire audience was mesmerized. Not a single eye wandered. During his hour-long storytelling presentation, Campbell acted out scenes with the help of puppets from a variety of beloved children’s books.

Campbell has been telling stories to students in libraries and schools across Florida for almost 20 years. Over the years, he has collected somewhere between 100-200 puppets. He credits his parents and Jackie Torrence as inspiring him to tell stories.

“My mother and father were teachers and they instilled in me the love of reading and telling stories and then, I became a teacher, and I saw this professional storyteller by the name of Jackie Torrence. When I saw her, she captivated me, and so I started working on a few of her stories and then library started using me a little bit and it just went from there,” Campbell said.

This was actually Campbell’s first trip out to Sanibel, however, he has been coming to the Fort Myers area for the last few years to tell his stories.

Deanna Evans, youth services librarian at the Sanibel Public Library, saw him perform in Pine Island and immediately wanted him to come to the library.

“When I changed jobs to work with the Sanibel Public Library, I had to get the summer programming ready and Windell was one of the first people I thought of. I’ve seen him captivate and mesmerize a baby. It’s an amazing thing that you don’t get to see too often,” Evans said.

Campbell was born in Ft. Pierce, Fla., and he later relocated to Dover, just outside of Tampa. He works as a school teacher for gifted students.

His favorite story to act out is “John Henry,” which he usually saves that for his older kids. Another favorite of his is “Loud Mouths.” For adults, he enjoys acting out scenes from the book, “The Selfish Giants.”

“It’s a very beautiful story written by Oscar Wilde. It has a little connotation of Jesus Christ, it never does say it, but it ends up to be such a beautiful story” he said.

So far, Campbell has 20-30 stories that he tells regularly.

“I make sure I have a story to cover any kind of occasion any and any kind of audience,” Campbell said.

After his presentations, he hopes to establish a love of reading and life-long learning in the children who attended.

“When I tell stories, especially to libraries, one of the main goals is to instill reading in the children. Certain stories have certain morals or lessons, so I try to make sure I instill in them the moral or lesson of that particular story in addition to becoming a good reader,” Campbell said.

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