Acting ‘Wonderful’

Theater students in Cathy Kapusciak’s class at Union High School know there’s more than one way to enjoy a good children’s book. You can read it, alone or aloud in a group, but you can also dramatize it — act out the story line with some friends and a few props made from cardboard, bed sheets, whatever you can find.

You can see how it’s done later this month when the students act out four children’s books at Scenic Regional Library’s Fifth Annual Family Reading Night Friday, Nov. 30, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Union High School.

The dramas begin at 7 p.m. in the Fine Arts Center.

This is the fourth year the theater students have been acting out books at the event. For them, it’s as educational as it is fun, said Kapusciak.

“It helps with their unit on children’s theater,” she explained. “It helps them understand the difference between adult and realistic acting and acting for kids.”

There’s also an academic component, she said. The drama students learn all of the steps required to bring a story to life.

There’s writing the script, deciding on and building props, selecting costumes, figuring out who stands where and when . . . these are all things that are often predetermined when acting out a typical high school play, said Kapusciak. With these picture book dramas, the students take the script word for word from the book, but they have to build up everything else around it.

“It’s very much a collaborative thing,” she said.

In fact, the UHS students are the ones selecting which books they will dramatize (from a list of 10 books nominated for the Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award, which Union’s Family Reading Night is built around).

The UHS students read all 10 books and then vote on which ones they think will be the easiest and best to perform on stage for families.

They select two books to make into plays and two books to be “Do As I Do” books that families in the audience can follow along with, mimicking the action.

Kapusciak said her theater students always enjoy the work that goes into the dramas for Family Reading Night. “They take real ownership of it,” she said.

She hopes the children and families who attend walk away from the evening inspired to act out their own story books at home. Find an old cardboard box to make some props, blankets or other material to fashion costumes.

Free Books, Crafts, Voting

The first 150 children through the doors at Family Reading Night will receive a free book.

There will be several tables of craft activities relating to children’s books, as well as reading areas where students from East Central College’s student Missouri State Teachers Association chapter will be reading each of the 10 books nominated for the Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award.

Children who listen to at least five of the 10 stories will be invited to vote for their favorite. Their votes, along with those of children all over the state, will be tallied once the poll closes Dec. 31 to select the winner of the 2012 Missouri Building Block Picture Book Winner.

“Voting booths” will be set up in the UHS lobby at Family Reading Night, said Christy Schink, Scenic’s children’s librarian. There will be regular ballots for older children to select their favorite and sticker ballots for younger children.

The Missouri Building Block Picture Book Award, administered by the Children’s Services Round Table of the Missouri Library Association, is designed to encourage reading aloud to children from birth through kindergarten age, said Schink. The award process, with its list of 10 nominees, is meant to give parents and caregivers suggestions on quality books they can read with their children, she said, noting the list is selected by children’s librarians.

Voting began Sept. 1 and will continue through Dec. 31, so children who aren’t able to vote at Family Reading Night can still vote either by visiting Scenic Regional Library or going online to and click on the Awards tab on the left to select Building Block Award.

Schink encourages all families to come out for the 2012 Family Reading Night.

The event is entirely free and the venue is spacious.

Parents can learn about all of the literacy opportunities available in the area. The Union School District’s early childhood centers will have a table set up with information and Scenic Regional Library will as well.

The Union Family Reading Night is sponsored by Scenic Regional Library, Union School District, the UHS drama students, and ECC’s student MSTA chapter.