A storytelling tradition

Reading Workshop

July 28, 1999

In Japan, the word kamishibai (kah-mee-shee-bye) refers to a kind of storytelling. Kami means paper and shiba means play. A "paper play" has scenes drawn on eight or 10 cards. The story itself is written on the backs of the cards, so the person reading can hold up the stack of pictures and read the story at the same time.

The Asian storytelling tradition evolved from the street storyteller who rode his bicycle from town to town and announced his arrival with loud clappers. Children would gather around and the kamishibai man would bring out large cards and weave his story to the group. But he would usually stop at an exciting moment, so the children would look forward to his next visit. Kamishibai have enjoyed a renaissance in Japanese schools, libraries and culture centers.

Try this variation of storytelling with today's read-aloud selection, "The Singing Snake." Here's how:

* Youll need about seven large poster boards or construction paper, markers or crayons or paste.

* On the front of each card, draw pictures relating to the story. The first card might show the island in the middle of the ocean. On each of the next five or six cards, draw or cut and past a picture of each type of creature mentioned in the story (snake, lark, platypus, squirrel). The last card should show a snake sadly hissing. Your child can color in the scenery.

* Cut the read-aloud story into sections as each new creature is introduced, and paste each section on the back of the card, showing that creature (or write the story on the back). Number each card according to events in the story.

* Place the picture cards on your lake. Lift and read each card, exposing the picture side to your audience as you "tell" the story.

* Remember you are a storyteller, not just a reader. Add dialogue and gestures. Be dramatic!

* Look for other stories for storytelling at the library, or on the Internet at www.kamishibai.com.

-- Susan Rapp

Village Reading Center

Pub Date: 07/28/99

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