Week 12 – Children's Program Review

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    • #2516
      Stacey Larner

      In August I took part in the Ashgrove Literature Festival, a festival held at Ashgrove State School during book week to celebrate books and reading. Students from Education and Library Science at QUT volunteered their time to assist with the weeks’ events.

      The day I attended we assisted with three programs. The first was a writing workshop with the author Paul Collins, the second a session with cartoonist and author Dave Hackett, and the third a writing workshop run by the volunteers in the students’ classrooms (we had grades 3 and 4). I’m only going to review one of the programs, and contrast it with a story time session I attended with my son recently.

      The second session I volunteered at was a cartooning “talk” with Dave Hackett. This kind of program falls under “entertainment programs”, with a decided literary bent. He’d let the kids vote on whether they wanted to create a group story, or do cartooning, and they voted for the latter. Dave is an amazing cartoonist, and his approach was to ask for prompts from the audience (a large group of third-graders in a huge hall). Dave would take suggestions and draw them onto a whiteboard, creating, as he went, a visual narrative. As he sketched, he showed the kids how they could change elements of pictures to make them more cartoon-like, using simple shape-modifications and also subtly reinforcing their vocabulary with his use of descriptive words (and how they change the way you draw). I was initially concerned about how well he could hold their attention, but my fear was completely unfounded, as the kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were excited that their cartoon was an original artwork that THEY had helped design.

      In contrast, the 3-5 years story time I decided to attend with my son (who is almost 4 and on the autism spectrum) wasn’t quite as well executed. The group of children was small (it was school holidays), so I expected it would be easier to handle my son and hopefully get him engaged with the session. The books chosen did not follow Larson’s recommendation for illustrations that were large and easy to see, and in terms of story seemed more appropriate for older children. Unlike Dave Hackett, who entertained a vast hall containing a big group of rowdy 9 year olds, the facilitator could not hold the (admittedly highly variable) attention of my son. Larson suggests that story time “allows the librarian to be a performer and to encourage participation in creative dramatics, storytelling and use of language.” As such, I considered Dave Hackett’s session to be a far more successful children’s program than this library’s actual story time program. I had hoped the library story time session would begin with some singing and maybe on the spot dancing to engage my son but instead we began without even a welcoming ritual. I found it difficult to hear the story time facilitator from three metres away, but I had no problems hearing Dave Hackett from the middle of a school hall (and no he had no microphone). Interestingly, after attending Dave’s cartooning session the students were able to take what they had learned and apply it to the writing workshops run by the volunteers in the classrooms.

      I decided to leave the story time session early, as my son was wandering around and I didn’t want him distracting the other kids. It did make me a little sad that a program aimed at his age group was so unsuited to his needs, and validated my belief that he would be uninterested in such a program (even though he enjoys “reading” books himself). Perhaps the other parents at the story time felt it was perfectly adequate for their children, yet having seen Dave Hackett at work I couldn’t help but wish the facilitator had brought more energy to the program, and the books had been chosen with more consideration to their visual appeal. It’s clear that the illustrations in picture books, just as much as cartoon illustrations, help to reinforce the story and build literacy as evidenced by the writing workshop we did after the cartooning session. The session run by Dave Hackett was an example of a successful program.

      • This topic was modified 8 years, 7 months ago by Stacey Larner.
    • #2610
      Will Wood

      Hi Stacey,

      I still remember a cartooning event similar to the one you described that I attended when I was a kid which goes to show that it really is an engaging format, both visual and interactive. It is a real shame that the library story time you attended did not come close to the standard set by Dave Hackett. I think some people are just better suited to a performative role and really get something out of it while others try to avoid it or simply don’t put the necessary effort in. I did a prac during my diploma in a public library and they had me run the toddler story time because most of the staff really disliked having to perform and sing whereas I found it to be a welcome break from shelving and loved making the kids laugh. It can be hard to find staff who relish the opportunity rather than seeing it as just another daily task.

    • #2641
      Stacey Larner

      Yes! I guess as a younger person I would have disliked doing story time myself, but now that I’m older (and have my own kids) I think it’s pretty fun to entertain them like that. I’m stuck on the singing thing though, I really don’t like singing nursery rhymes and would hate it if I was the centre of attention. I’d have to find other ways of doing it I think… with drums. Haha.

    • #2687
      Shannon Franzway

      I love how Larson suggests that story time “allows” a librarian to be a performer!  I’m quite happy to roll up to story time with my kids and have a bit of a nursery rhyme sing-along with the crowd – if I was leading the story time though, I think there would be stage fright to overcome.  Certainly a skill worth practicing and with repetition the trepidation would wear off but still, I’m not sure how many librarians could whack “performer” on their CV straight up!

      • #2765
        Stacey Larner

        I don’t get nervous because of the kids, I get nervous because of the adults! I think there must be a real skill to just immerse yourself in the experience of the kids and ignore the adults sitting there ;).

    • #2921

      It’s so true that we remember those talented people that can hold the attention and deliver enjoyment, engaging the crowd, delivering the great lines. I gues not all of us are talented that way hahaha . Storytelling with my children was such a joy, it’s something all of us remember with much happiness, but I guess it doesn’t come easily to everyone. Your son is fortunate to have a mum who is attuned to his needs Stacey 🙂 I bet he loves reading with you.

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