At 72-years-old Darryl Pynsent feels like he has found his true calling.
Two days a week he is usually the first person to arrive at Stoke Kindergarten – bag of books in hand.
Then, as children file in for the day, they will wave or give him a hug and say “good morning Story Grandad”.
It’s a role Darryl found himself with over three years ago, when he answered an advert looking for men to read books to kindergarten children. He thought that it could be a good idea.
Darryl, who was born in Australia but lived most of his life in Nelson, was fostered out as a child.
“It wasn’t that happy. I was well clothed and fed but there wasn’t much else. I missed the family and the love they have together.”
Then as he got older, life went on and marriage and children never happened for him.
“I thought perhaps I could give back to the children something that I never had. That would help me and be good for the children.”
So, he started at Tahunanui Kindergarten. Darryl walked through the front door, picked up a book and sat down on a couch. Within seconds half a dozen children had congregated around him.
At the kindergarten, children all call teachers by their first name but Darryl “being a bit old school” didn’t quite like the idea of that. So, he suggested “Grandad Story”.
The name stuck, but when he started at Stoke Kindergarten they flipped it and it became “Story Granddad”.
He spends two full days a week at Stoke and one-half day at Tahunanui.
“For me reading is a big part of the learning process,” he says. “It’s a lovely feeling.”
The rest of the time he volunteers at Re:Store, in the book department, where he can stock up on new reads for the children.
“It works pretty well,” he says.
Many children drop the “story” part of his name because they don’t have grandparents in Nelson or they are overseas.
One little girl recently told her mum that she wanted to adopt Darryl because her own grandparents were overseas. So, he asked the parents if he could be her “New Zealand grandad”.
“Now we do things together. Like a real family. It’s lovely.”
Darryl spent most of his life in manual labour – working first at the Griffins factory and then at Sealord. But he admits he is probably working more hours as a volunteer than he ever used to.
“This has given me a new lease on life,” he says. “Some of my friends say, ‘you should be rewarded for all the work you do’. But I say, ‘I do get rewarded’. I get hugs and smiles and a laugh from the children. What more could you ask for?”
Darryl says that he knows now that he should have been a teacher but is happy that he is helping now.
He always regretted not having children, even though he admits he probably would have spoiled them. Instead, now he spoils his “grandchildren”.
“Everyone laughs when they ask ‘how many children have you got?’ I say, ‘none but I have 80 grandchildren’.”