Consider the concept of bibliotherapy — the fact that books or stories can have a beneficial (therapeutic) effect on the reader or listener.
Children love books and stories. As a story-reader, YOU make the story come alive for the kids. The story flows through YOU!
To make that happen, you must really “get into” a book. You have to know the book — the story and the pictures (if there are pictures). Read it, work with it, define words, and work on pronunciation and emphasis.
Make sure you are prepared to use the expressions and emotions that are appropriate to each part of the story. For instance, you won’t want to stay in an excited, bubbly mode when you get to a line that says, “It made her so sad.”
BOOK: My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss — an illustration of using your voice to convey different feelings.
When you read books about feelings and allow the audience to share their comments and experiences about the feeling(s) dealt with in the story, you give them the opportunity to realize that others have some of the same feelings that they have. You can ask, “Have you ever felt that way?”
It’s important to learn the vocabulary — how to pronounce the words and what they mean. You need to be prepared for when children ask you. Feel free to skip a word or phrase or substitute a different word or phrase to maintain the meaning, but make it something you can handle.
BOOK: Alicia Has A Bad Day by Lisa Jahn-Clough (3 minutes) — It has a key word that you must learn ahead of time. “Lugubrious” which means mournful, often to an exaggerated degree. In the book, it means dark and dreary.
It’s good to ask questions as you begin a book, attempting to pull the audience into the story. For instance, for Alicia Has A Bad Day, you might ask, “Has anybody here ever had a bad day? If so, tell us what made it a bad day for you.” After some comments, read the story.
For the book, The Day I Saw My Father Cry, you might ask if anyone can describe a time they have seen an adult cry. “How did that make you feel?” and “How does it make you feel for an adult to see YOU cry?”
BOOK: Everett Anderson’s Goodbye by Lucille Clifton — Possible opening questions for this book: “What do you think this story might be about?” On the first page of the book, we learn that it was written “for my sad friend.” We learn from this story that Everett Anderson’s dad died…and that saying goodbye is not always easy. “Have you ever had trouble saying goodbye to someone?” Read the story.
Sometimes, you will want to pause during the story, asking a question to draw the audience more deeply into the story (or back into it, if they are drifting). You might ask a “Why do you think he/she (in the story) was feeling or acting that way?” After responses, you can continue with the story.
There may be times that you will only read part or parts of a book because of time constraints or because only part of the book relates to the theme of the evening or to the point you are trying to make. Being familiar with the book or story ahead of time will help you decide what sections or pages to skip if you are short on time and have to cut the story short.
If the pictures in a book are large enough for the audience to appreciate and if they add to the story, have one person read from one copy of the book and another person use a second copy of the book to show the pictures during the reading. If you only have one copy of a book, one person can read from a typed copy of the text while another person holds up the pictures for the audience to see.
Some books are appropriate for adults as well as children. My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss is one of those. Another is Lifetimes by Mellonie and Ingpen.
A book for grade school or middle school kids is Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park. It’s a small paperback book of about 84 pages, but a particularly helpful section is where the girl is talking to her dad about her brother’s death – and she finally admits that she felt that it was her fault. Dad offers a great response.
At the end of a book or story, you can make some comments or initiate interaction with the audience that can help create a transition out of the story and into the next activity. For instance:
• “After hearing that story, can anyone tell me why this book has the title it does?”
• “Now that you’ve heard that story, what might you say to a friend of yours who was feeling that way?”
• If your group is old enough, you might ask, “Did that story give you any ideas about how you might handle a similar situation the next time it comes up in your life?”
• After completing the book Alicia Has A Bad Day, you might ask, “Now that you’ve heard about Alicia and her bad day, do you have any ideas of what can help YOU handle a bad day the next time you have one?”
Finally, be flexible and sensitive to your audience. If you sense the need to pause to reflect or allow the audience to process the material (or to be supportive of each other during an emotional time), take the time. If you see that you are running out of time or if the group is too “antsy” to continue through the whole story, look for opportunities to shorten the story (skipping some of it or paraphrasing some parts of it).
Remember – pour yourself into the story and let it flow through you!
by Danny Mize, Advisory Council member for The Hope & Healing Place
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