by Suzanne I. Barchers
Libraries Unlimited, 1994
In my days as a children’s librarian and as mentor to early readers I started to come across articles and happen into conversations about Reader’s Theatre. While I’ve heard of the concept before as another mode for actors to express themselves, blocking and performing with scripts instead of memorizing lines, I hadn’t known much about it as a device for education. Looking through listservs I started to see more and more use of reader’s theatre as a way for children to practice reading aloud in a nonthreatening, fun way. Not only that, the concept helps foster reading comprehension, as oftentimes children are given the freedom to take an existing story and adapt it to suit their interpretation or interests. Exercises such as this can help develop strong narrative skills. I think this type of set up can do wonders for the reluctant reader, those wishing to enhance their writing skills (through adapting a story), as well as the shy public speaker. Without the threat of forgetting lines, with encouragement from teachers and librarians, and with plenty of opportunities to practice, get creative, and to explore, I think Reader's Theatre is a positive way to promote literacy among youth.
This being a scary books blog I just had to find out if there were books out there, with an odd or spooky twist, that followed the principles of reader’s theatre. I was looking to see if there was a book that was suitable for school age children and one that gave them opportunities for freedom of expression through writing, creating/adapting scripts, dramatic expression, etc. I couldn’t find anything at my local library but through my university library I found an electronic resource for Scary Readers Theatre by Suzanne I. Barchers. I was stoked to find a scary book that was specifically designed for a reader’s theatre project. This book provided scripted adaptations of 30 popular scary stories, myths, multinational folktales, and urban legends. Due to the methodical nature of the scripts, sometimes the stories seemed a bit dry and unappealing. Hopefully, in such instances, this is where a child could unleash their creativity to save the story by employing an interesting vocal tactic or modifying the flow of the text. This book employed a rating system of scary, scarier, and scariest and it seemed to have a good mix of stories on all levels for elementary and middle school age children. I think this book was a good first find for a reader’s theater piece, especially since it takes away the pressure of script adaptation. In that sense, the work is already done for you. This book is a great start, but I hope there is more out there. If not, we need to make some! These types of books are great to help encourage literacy, with a spooky bent, in schools, libraries, and after-school programs.