That doesn't mean curling up on the porch with a glass of iced tea and a good book. To a storyteller Summer Reading means high gear, lots of children, lots of stories, lots of travel and lots of fun.
When telling to children I prefer to use participation techniques. This means I may use puppets, rhythm instruments, flannelboard stories, chants, songs, etc. to involve as many children as possible in the telling. When I find a story I like, I consider the possibilities: can I add a chant to it? Can it be told with children using puppets? What would the story be like as a flannelboard presentation? Not all stories fit this type of telling and there is always room for a well-told, enchanting tale that requires only my voice and their ears.
As I considered the possibilities for my program this year, I found myself drawn to the constellations and the stories behind them. And that gave me an idea. Using glittery stars and chenille sticks, I tried making constellations on my large flannelboard. It worked beautifully. Then I developed short versions of the stories of each constellation. That is working backwards in a way, but the constellations I chose needed to be simple enough for a child to make because I plan to tell the story as a child volunteer and helper put the constellation on the board. I also needed stories not too bloody (not a simple task with the Greek myths!) or too adult for my young audiences.
I also developed a craft activity for children to do, making constellations with glow-in-the-dark stars on black card stock, and joining the stars with white chalk lines. Finding the stars wasn't easy or as inexpensive as I'd have liked, considering I might be making this craft with 200 or so children. Today I found some glow-in-the-dark crayons online and ordered those to use in place of the chalk. Some librarians like the craft activity as part of the program because it's one less thing they have to do.
The constellations will be the central part of the program but I prepared many other stories which I will mix in with the constellations stories so that more children can have a role in the telling. One story, for example, tells why the sun is in the sky during the day and the moon is in the sky at night. The stars are their children in the story so I prepared many star stick puppets for use in telling this story, along with a large sun and a moon stick puppet. Another story tells of how thunder got lightning; the versions I read had various animals in the story so I adapted it to the puppets I own. At least 6 children will help tell this story.
I always include songs in my programs because everyone likes to sing (even if they say otherwise). I looked up the standard Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and was amazed to learn it had many verses. I have often performed Aiken Drum as a flannelboard song; this time I've adapted him to be a Sky Man and his face will be made of stars, moons, planets, etc.
I have other programs this summer, of course: this week includes 6 Appalachian storytelling programs in addition to 3 Sky Tales programs. I will be presenting programs of campfire tales, ghost stories and one with a Western theme.
It will be a busy summer and I hope it will be one that audiences remember long after the telling.
Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.