Well, I have to admit I whined a little bit this year about my school visits to promote our summer reading program: I didn’t have enough time to prepare a new story to tell! (WHINE) I was busy thinking about other services, so emailing librarians and counting bookmarks was a distraction! (WHINE) They always make me so tired! (WHINE)
As usual, though, the universe paid me back for whining, in full. Here’s how.
I did *not* have enough time to learn a new story to tell, that’s the truth. So I juggled a couple of past presentations between the schools that I visited (I only had two schools this year, what was I doing whining in the first place?)
For one school, I chose to retell last year’s Choose-Your-Own Cinderella. I had made pictures that represented different elements of the folktale as it is told in different parts of the world, and had the kids choose which elements they wanted in our version of the story. It was a lot of fun, and I really didn’t mind having a chance to share it with more kids. (WHAT was I doing whining again?)
My library is participating in the Dream Big theme, so I thought up a new little intro to the story. I said something along these lines: “Every year we call our reading program something else, and this year it’s called Dream Big. And that’s what I’d like to invite you guys to do this summer! I want you to dream big dreams, and write down interesting thoughts, and read amazing books, and tell your own stories. And to get you started, I’m going to have you help me tell a story today. It’s a story you already know…” And then I launched into Cinderella.
Well, my VERY FIRST GROUP of kids was a class of fourth graders. And they had a good time choosing the story with me, but since they were big kids we went through all the choices pretty quickly. I glanced at the time, realized I was ahead of schedule, and asked them, “So, should we do it again?”
A bunch of them answered yes right away, but as I picked up the cards to start over, one of the boys said, “But we should tell it our OWN way. Not Cinderella, our own story.”
Stopped me in my tracks! I had given them my glib little intro, and darned if he didn’t take me at my own words. What an awesome kid. And the rest of the class immediately agreed, so I said, “Absolutely, we’ll tell a new story with the same pictures. So how are we going to start? Here’s our first set of pictures.”
And I prompted, “Once upon a time there was a … ”
And they said, “Rice field.”
“All right,” I said, “A rice field. Now, every story has a problem in it. What’s our rice field’s problem?”
They told me the rice field was too weedy.
“So we need a solution, right? Who is going to help our rice field with a solution?”
The fish, of course, they told me. Rice fields are watery, a fish makes lots of sense, we decided.
“How does this magic fish help the rice field?”
How else? Well, the fish turned the rice field into a human being, so it could weed itself.
“Nice going,” I said. “But here comes the tricky part! The next pictures are about shoes…HOW are you guys going to work SHOES into the story?”
Easy! The fish also granted the human rice field a pair of golden slippers, since the fields were muddy and their feet were getting dirty.
And for the last set of pictures?
The human being walked down the road in their golden slippers all the way to town, where the rice field person BOUGHT some rice instead of having to work so hard to grow it.
No, this wasn’t in the end an earthshaking feat of creativity, but man, they came up with the idea of doing it themselves, and they thought on their feet and they worked together and they shared their ideas, and we had a really, really good time. And oh my word, I could have kissed each and every one of them for reminding me that this is why I do what I do.
This is why I work so hard to get the word to parents and caregivers about reading with their kids and building their children’s imaginations and their vocabularies and their understanding about the world…so our kids are able to dream big dreams, and write down interesting thoughts, and read amazing books, and tell their own stories.
I can’t wait to hear them all.