See my earlier posts for general information about Readers Theater, suggestions for adapting book text into a great script, and key text characteristics that make a book well suited for Readers Theater. Today I’ll focus on text format.
As you search for books to convert into RT scripts, keep in mind that some of the text on each page will be used as an animal introduction for the narrator, and the rest will be presented as dialog by an animal character. That means books with two sections of text—shorter, simpler text that conveys a general idea and a longer section with more details—can work especially well.
The good news is that, in the last decade, science-themed picture books with this kind of layered text have become an increasingly popular. Two book that work especially well for Readers Theater are Animals Asleep by Sneed Collard (illus. by Anik McGrory) and Leaving Home also by Sneed Collard (illus. by Joan Dunning). Published by Houghton Mifflin, these two titles have a simple main text at the top of each page and smaller, detail-rich text blocks at the bottom of each page. (These books are also great for Reading Buddiesprograms.)
In Animals Asleep, soft, appealing watercolors and accessible text describe the sleep habits of a wide variety of animals. Large-type text is general and flows well, while more detailed small-type text provides interesting tidbits about featured animals.
Leaving Home looks at how a variety of animals grow up and leave home. Large, striking watercolors accompany clear, simple text presented in two levels. Short, simple text in large type gives general information, while smaller type provides details.
In both of these books, the main text is great for introductory speeches by the narrator, while the detailed text provides a variety of options for animal roles.
In addition, each of these books begins with a simple introductory sentence that presents the topic in a general way.
“Most of us need sleep.”
“Sooner or later, we all leave home.”
This structure makes the books great models for teaching students how to organize their nonfiction writing—by beginning with a topic sentence and then adding additional paragraphs with supporting details.
Note to self. That would make a good topic for a future blog post.