Friday, June 9, 2017

Build A Better World: Summer Reading Time

June has finally arrived and in the world of a working storyteller that often means summer reading.

Alas, it doesn't mean I'm going to finally be able to finish the stack of books on my desk waiting for a read. It means I will spend the summer performing in libraries all over the country.

Summer Reading has changed quite a bit in the thirty years I've been participating in it.

In the olden days, there were lots of different themes for summer reading, and you'd have to keep track of them from county to county or sometimes from library to library.

These days, there is one central Summer Reading program theme, and many systems all over the country use it.

The idea behind Summer Reading is simple.

1. Bring your kids to the library and sign up for this free program.
2. Spend the week reading with or to your children. If they are old enough, they read to themselves, you or their siblings, grandparents, or cousins.
3. Keep a record of the reading
4. Once a week there is a program or activity. You return your reading logs to the library, enjoy a free show or activity, and win prizes for your reading.

The benefits?

-Kids spend the entire summer reading.
-Kids spend time with their families.
-Kids read to their siblings.
-Kids spend time communicating with people of different ages and discussing literature.
-Kids spend time at the library getting to know it and love it
-Families are exposed to art, crafts, performers, science, and much more at the library

There are also Teen Summer Reading Programs and Adult Summer Reading Programs.

The librarians who put these programs together for teens are known to come up with some wild and whacky stuff.

There is everything from Zombie Daze to body art parties, and the books they read are pretty amazing.

This year, the summer reading theme is Build A Better World

I choose out about ten stories that I think will work well for the theme of the year, and I give myself a loose idea about how I want to combine the stories to make a unified set.

I never quite know how I'm going to put them together until I get in front of an audience. That, of course, is where the rubber meets the road and I discover if I can really do what I see in my head.

Stories that I didn't plan to tell occur to me because of the responses I get from the patrons. Ideas for things to discuss that never crossed my mind come up because of the questions I get.

The set is shaped and altered, and somewhere in the midst of the summer, the program is truly set...which means that it will be time for a library to throw something at me for which the set is completely inappropriate, and I will begin anew with different stories.

This week I started learning how to Build A Better World.

So far, the kids have suggested -

1. Recycle
2. Don't hit your sister
A Fellow with a hammer!
3. Don't be mean
4. Plant trees
5. Don't litter
6. Get a hammer
7. Be polite
8. Don't lie
9. Don't bully people
10. Respect your parents
11. Learn
12. Work hard at school

I don't usually ask the grown ups about building a better world. I ask them what they dreamt they would do when they were kids. Lots of them won't answer the question, but a few have offered up their dreams.

1. I wanted to be a mom
2. I wanted to be a teacher
3. I wanted to be a fashion designer
4. I wanted to be a librarian (This from the librarian)

Most of the adults I've encountered so far don't answer. They look perplexed as if they can't imagine I really want an answer, don't remember what they dreamt, or just refuse to say it out loud. I hope their kids ask them about it later.

There are so many things I forget about summer reading until I start doing it.

- The peripheral children in the library who are too "old" for storytelling are enjoying it as much as the kids who are sitting in front of me.

- The adults in the library often make a point of telling me that even though they are adults, they enjoyed the if I wasn't also telling to them.

- The librarians who have not ever seen me or who have never gambled on a "storyteller" before are shocked that the kids will actually sit still if you don't have puppets, instruments, dry ice, or animals.

- There are communities who do not have live performance opportunities, and if they don't see them in the summer at their libraries, they might never see anything like this at all.

Arts, math, science, reading, family time, libraries, community, computers, and dreaming are all part of building that better world for the thousands of children and families I will share stories with this summer.

I love summer reading.

I hope you are out there somewhere sharing it with someone.

Happy Building A Better World!

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