Reader’s Theater is a teaching strategy in which students read a book or play as a script, having assigned roles and characters. Unlike a full performance, props and physical acting are not generally used, instead focusing on the reading. In the classroom students might act out a short story, a folk tale, a poem, or even a section of a novel. Kids love this because it is interactive. They get to step into a role without having to go up on stage. Reader’s Theater also helps with fluency, one of the often missed components of reading. As students read they are talking mostly in dialogue, adding expression and emotion into the spoken word. Another aspect of Reader’s Theater is that the story is often familiar, read several times to allow students to practice and hone their roles. Repeated exposure to the same text is recommended to students learning to read because it gives practice with fluency without having to worry about stumbling over unfamiliar words. It also gives students a chance to study the literary devices and techniques employed by an author as they read the text a second or third time. They already know the story, so they can dig deeper as they read.
All of this to say that Reader’s Theater can happen outside of the classroom too! Even the youngest readers can begin to practice reading using this technique, even if your child is at the pseudo reading stage, meaning that your child just pretends to read, memorizes parts of the book, or retells a story from looking at pictures. (All are excellent indicators that you are raising a child to read!) We began to read one of our books at home in Reader’s Theater style quite by accident. Here is a review of the book with some details about how we started our own Reader’s Theater at home.
The Three Billy Goats Gruff
This book is a version of the popular folk tale The Three Billy Goats Gruff written by Stephen Carpenter. While new books are often given a lot of time on book blogs, I will admit: this is a book published ten years ago, although it is still in print today. The book is a simple 8 by 8; this means that it’s one of those small 8 inch paperbacks that are popular and cheap, albeit mass produced and sometimes …. not the best quality. This book however is well written and illustrated. It’s the same cast of characters: goat, goat, goat, bridge, and troll. The dialogue is simple but with some humor. (As an added benefit, the dialogue is easy enough for my Lil Guy to remember at age 2.) The story is also short enough to be a successful little Reader’s Theater at home.
My Lil Guy liked this book enough that we were reading it a couple times a day. He giggled when we would use funny voices. In fact, my husband decided to add a Scottish brogue to the Billy Goats’ voices. (Or at least I think that is the effect I think he was trying to accomplish.) Soon, the Troll’s voice changed too, it was gravely and rough. My Lil Guy began to imitate us reading the story and took over the part of the Troll. By this point, I was being a narrator (or the reader as my son was calling me), Lil Guy was doing the Troll’s voice, and my husband was doing the Goats. The best part of the story is when the Troll tells each Goat; “I am going to gobble you up!” This always gets us all laughing. After several days of reading the book in this manner, we were ready to go mainstream and share our Reader’s Theater at home with an audience. Nana was our first critic. Via Skype we read along with the story, each doing our part and I must admit the effect was very successful.
This is a great version of the classic folk tale. I do enjoy bringing old favorites to life and this book does an excellent version of that. I am always on the lookout for good versions of classic tales, because well, because there are so many bad ones! This book stands up to the test and classic tale lovers and those of you who are new to the story will enjoy this book, the illustrations, and maybe even a little theatrical flair. Great for toddlers and emergent readers.