Today I am delighted to be guest blogging over at picture book author and librarian Lauri Fortino’s blog on one of my favorite topics: USING PUPPETS TO ENGAGE YOUNG READERS. Plus, you’ll get to meet Little Owl, my newest puppet storytelling companion. (And I hear there is a giveaway, too!) Thank you for having me, Lauri. So fly on over, friends. I’ll make it easy for you. Here’s the link.
My decision to use puppets at author visits began quite by chance. Since a pair of skunks play an important role in my first book, and figuring that some of my very youngest readers might not be familiar with the species, I thought having a pair of skunk puppets would be an engaging way to introduce the story. Quite honestly, the former teacher (and crowd control freak) in me, also thought skunk puppets might be a friendly way to help young audiences settle down before and during the reading since, as you know, skunks are notorious for making a big stink if they get startled.
Well, the skunks were such a great hit, that when my second book came out, I knew I wanted to pair that story with a book-specific puppet as well. Without too much trouble, thanks to the wonderful puppet designers at Folkmanis, I found the perfect companion — Rooster!
Rooster’s very loud which, quite frankly, is a big problem because Goodnight, Manger is a bedtime story and bedtime is supposed to be quiet. So together, the kids and I decide that we’ll show Rooster what “quiet” looks and sounds like. After we’ve read the story, we see if we can teach him do a quiet cock-a-doodle-doo. If he learns well, we invite him to join as we sing a lullaby to Baby Jesus. And once again, like those stinky skunks, Rooster, too, has been a big hit.
In fact, these darling puppets have been so popular at author events, I’ve decided that each and every picture book that I write must be paired with at least one puppet. So far I’ve been lucky and have found perfect matches. Now, with more books in the publication pipeline, I am again in the market for puppets. Without revealing too much…. I need an adorable mouse, an owl, and if possible, a seal! Any leads? =)
Happy author visits, all! And perhaps you, too, will decide to bring a puppet along to your next author visit.
Reading to the very young is fun, but challenging. Here are twelve tips for capturing and keeping the attention and interest of very young audiences at picture book author events.
BEFORE THE STORY:
- Have the children gather around you – close up.
- Begin with a focusing activity, such as a song or clapping response game.
- Briefly tell a little bit about who you are, your inspiration for story etc. in a playful, kid-friendly way. (Optional: Bring a long a couple of props to help with this. I bring puppets, for example.)
DURING THE STORY:
4. Be animated and excited. Read with expression.
5. Make eye contact. Remember, you aren’t just reading, you are interacting with your readers.
6. Before turning each page, be sure to hold the book up and pan it around the room slowly so everyone has a chance to enjoy the illustration.
7. Involve the children in the storytelling. (By using body motions and sounds, for example.)
8. Pause occasionally to point out something from the illustrations that they might not notice, but which adds to the story.
9. As you read, occasionally ask questions like “What do you think will happen next? Would you want to be…?” (But don’t do #8 and #9 so much that you break the flow of the story.)
AFTER THE STORY:
10. Share a fun post-reading activity such as a simple craft or song.
11. Depending on age and attentiveness of group, have a brief Q&A session.
12. Thank the children for being such a great audience and thank their parents or guardians for bringing them to the event. Remember also to thank the event host.