story hacker

So this week on of the books I was using for my outreach storytimes wasn’t quite working for my groups for some reason. It seemed to be missing a crucial action in the text, which made it not quite pop for the children. It was as though there was a three step action sequence missing step two. So the second time I went out with it, I added the text I thought it needed (“and they pulled, and they pulled, and they pulled, but!”), replete with action, and read the rest of the text verbatim, and the kids seemed much more engaged with the story and seemed to understand it more.

I’m always a little conflicted when I do this. Part of me is a text purist, and I try to not abridge or omit if I can help it, because it seems a little bit like censoring to me. But when I’m performing a storytime–and I am performing in the belt it out, jazz hands, shuffle ball step sense of the word–I sometimes feel that to deliver the material well, a bit of improvisation is in order.

So, storytimers, do you do this? How often? And how do you feel about it?

2 responses to “story hacker”

  1. I do this too. In fact, I just did it this week with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, because I’ve noticed that kids seem kind of confused about how to react to the pigeon, particularly if they haven’t heard the book before. I think it can be difficult for them to grasp that the pigeon is talking directly to them and not to the bus driver. And yes, I use different voices, but it can still be a little confusing for 3 and 4 year olds.

    I still think Mo Willems is a genius though. Many picture books need even more “help” in getting kids to really connect what is happening in the image with the text. Probably a lot of picture books could stand to be tested more by being read alout to actual children (individually and in groups) before being published.


  2. I do this constantly – I replace words if I can’t see the text, I ask kids what they think is happening next, I abridge if they’re getting wiggly and the story is too long. As far as I’m concerned, the picture book text is just the foundation for a successful story interaction – the reader adds to the experience (or sometimes I just can’t see the words…)


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