17 June 2010

Reader’s Theater in a Theater of War

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill, and over at Boston 1775 I’m highlighting a new children’s book titled John Greenwood’s Journey to Bunker Hill, written by Marty Rhodes Figley, illustrated by Craig Orback, and published by Lerner for classroom use.

This book is so new, in fact, that it may not be on sale yet. The complimentary copy I received has a 2011 copyright notice, and my recollection is that publishers usually aren’t allowed to jump that gun until the final months of the year.

John Greenwood’s Journey to Bunker Hill adapts part of the memoir of a man who joined the provincial army outside Boston in the spring of 1775 at the age of fifteen. It’s a fun, lively reminiscence which isn’t widely available because it still has copyright protection; the world could use a good scholarly edition of that memoir.

This volume, in Lerner’s “History Speaks” series, starts with a standard thirty-two-page non-fiction picture book. You know the drill: full-color, full-bleed illustrations; third-person omniscient narration; dramatic moments in the life of the young protagonist. But then there’s a script and staging advice for performing the book as…reader’s theater!

Not having kids or a classroom job, I first read about this pedagogical thing called “reader’s theater” in kidlit blogs. The first example I saw was at an event organized by Melissa Stewart. It seems to be quite the fad now, both among teachers (as Lerner is responding to) and among writers trying to make their children’s books more appealing for classroom use. Certainly it’s easier for a fifth-grade class to do a theatrical reading of John Greenwood’s Journey than to stage the whole Battle of Bunker Hill.


Nathan said...

So are books with a 2011 copyright date in the public domain until January?

J. L. Bell said...

My mother suggested that I rush to self-publish the text of this book in 2010 so that I can sue the publisher when its edition appears next year.