My co-worker, Susan Bishop, and I officially formed the storytelling partnership known as READiculous late last winter. We already had twelve live performances under our belt at eight different venues. These included the obvious, schools and the library, as well as the unexpected, a Millikin children’s literature class and Macon Resources. But we were still surprised that we were so well-received. Okay, I was genuinely flabbergasted. After all, we were simply doing our job – reading books to our audience.
Our program began, and the intended audience was kindergarten through sixth-graders. That was the original request. First, Dennis Elementary followed by Enterprise were seeking storytellers for their students. The former wanted a month-end reward program for kids who had maintained good behavior for the previous month. The latter sought entertainment for their November Family Night. So Susan and I “got busy.” We picked picture books. We picked beginning reader books. We picked favorite books. And finally we presented eleven books in 45 minutes!
When we were putting the show together, I personally felt confident that our show would be a winner. I had a first-grader and a sixth-grader myself at the time. The books had been tested before, and they served the planned purpose – they made my girls laugh. However, I still remember how we questioned ourselves after those first performances. Were the books too old for the kindergarteners? Were the books too young for the sixth-graders? Was the program too long? Were we holding their attention? Were we engaging their minds?
It is hard to gauge the expressions of hundreds of wriggling children while simultaneously reading from a book and physically acting out the parts! The youngest children are the most vocal and they are always at the front. They laugh, squeal, clap their hands and stomp their feet. The older children are always far in the back. I think they prefer it that way because it provides anonymity. They are quiet but wide-eyed when they think no one is watching. Don’t you dare catch them laughing out loud. They are just on the verge of those pesky teenage years when they are too cool to care.
I am so grateful that Susan thought of a way to draw the students into the library after the show. Every child goes home with a flyer that tells the parents that we visited their school. It lists the books we read as well as suggestions for further reading. It also explains how to get a Decatur Public Library card in case they don’t already have one. Finally, if they approach the Children’s Desk and tell a librarian that they saw READiculous at their school, they will receive a bag, a button and stickers for being so bold.
In exchange, we get to dig for a bit of information. We find out what grade they are in. What book that we performed was their favorite? Do they already have a library card or are they getting their first one? What kinds of books do they like, and what kinds of books do they want to check out? And you know what? We get just as many 5th and 6th graders as we do 1st graders, and the older kids are not shy about how much they enjoyed our show. We are making an impact. We got it right! And I haven’t even mentioned the support we have received from our adult fans.
To find out more about READiculous, you can follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/ReallyREADiculous. To see our schedule or to book a show, go to http://www.decaturlibrary.org/childrens/readiculous.aspx.