Book-It All Over! Touring Stories Program Awakens Young Minds to Literature
By Raheena Charania

Three hundred children sit mesmerized in the school’s gymnasium watching a

2002-2003 Touring Stories
Why Leopard Has Spot
s (Grades K-5)

David Copperfield (Grades 6-Adult) 
The Phantom Tollbooth (Grades K-5)
Tam Lin (Grades K-5)

TIP: Don't miss our interview with Tam Lin author Jane Yolen

performance of the folktale, Why Leopard Has Spots. They’re drawn in by the actors’ expressions, movement, and the magic of seeing a book unfold. After the performance, a kindergartner asks one of the actors, Carob Lambert, “Do they make dolls of you?”

“Since there’s little set or costume, children experience a book actively because they’re forced to create everything in their minds,” says Book-It All Over! (BIAO) Education Director Gail Frasier. “For some children, words on a page can be dead. As a child, I had a hard time reading, and drama was a life-changing experience for me. I believe it can transform a child’s interest in the written word.”

Touring Storie

BIAO was formed in 1996 by Co-Artistic Director, Myra Platt, who fell in love with children’s literature after having a son. She developed the Touring Stories Program to introduce literature to children and young adults through theater. By saying only the words the author has written and preserving the author’s voice, actors speak both narrative and dialogue in the unique Book-It style, including the “he saids” and “she saids.” Each story is 25 to 45 minutes long and aimed primarily at grades K-5, although performances are intended to inspire all ages to read. The performance is followed by a hands-on workshop where students develop and perform a story of their own.

To date, BIAO has performed over 50 books throughout
Washington State from Blaine to Olympia. Often sponsored by the schools or PTAs, they perform throughout the school year. During the summer, they bring performances and workshops into the public libraries.

“The books we choose are a fine balance between entertaining kindergartners yet mature enough so that fifth-graders won’t roll their eyes,” says Frasier. “I have a passion for multicultural literature. I believe it’s important for children to hear cultural stories and to see people of diverse backgrounds.”

Frasier admits she was a bit apprehensive about performing David Copperfield at
Garfield High School, which has a diverse student population. Frasier relates, “The lights go down, the kids are going crazy, and we’re about to start this proper English play. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but they were the best audience we’ve ever had. They were completely involved in the action on stage. It’s incredible how literature can transcend culture and time, and that students will find things to relate to.”

Residency Programs

In addition to the Touring Stories, BIAO offers longer Residency Programs to older students. “Four years ago, I realized we needed a different way to reach middle- and high-school students,” says Frasier. “Our first residency was with
Roosevelt High School in a nine-week program. This year we were there for a full semester. We’ve worked with both language arts and drama classes. The primary focus is on the literature the teachers are using in their curriculum.”

Laurie Levine, drama teacher at
Kamiak High School, likes how the residency program challenges students’ imaginations and enriches curriculum. “The Book-It style is great for advanced actors since it adds to their repertoire. It’s an ensemble way of performing. They can be anything in the story – person, animal, vegetable, or mineral – and everybody gets their moment to shine. Two years ago after we performed the book, The Stinky Cheeseman, a boy raised his hand and told us that we had changed three words. That’s exactly what we want to get across to our audience  – to encourage them to keep reading, and hopefully when we’re done, they’ll run to their library to get the book to see if we did it right.” 

Danger Books

Discussion is encouraged in BIAO’s Danger Books program, aimed at middle- and high-school students. “We read controversial excerpts from books that have been banned or challenged in the
United States,” explains Frasier. “This has been the best way to get kids excited about reading, because they get a short, hot moment in the book and they’re just dying to know what happens. We facilitate a discussion on why it’s banned, and students get into heated debates. At one school we read from a book called The Agony of Alice, challenged because it contains sexual content, and in Fairfax County, Virginia, it’s restricted to ‘girls groups only.’ A few days later, the librarian called us and said, ‘After you finished that performance, I had a secret waiting list of boys for The Agony of Alice, a book they would otherwise never have read.’” 

Next, Frasier hopes to get the rights to perform The Cinderella Stories, which includes a story from
Iraq. “With everything going on in the world, we hope to encourage thinking and dialogue,” she says. “Another area we might explore is issue-based literature, creating workshops based on themes such as bullies or teen pregnancy. Ultimately we hope to reach students with literature, theater, and problem-solving workshops.”

That’s what education is all about. Book-It All Over! makes a difference by fostering an interest in reading and awakening young minds to think, question, dream, create … the possibilities are endless within the pages of a book.

Book-It All Over!

The Book-It All Over! Touring Stories Program includes:

  • One performance for up to 500 students.

  • One 45-minute workshop for 30 students.

  • A study guide and copy of the book for your library.

For information on Touring Stories, Workshops, or Residency Programs, call 206-770-0880 or e-mail Web site: .


Raheena Charania is a mother of two. She serves on the Advisory Committee of the Washington-N. Idaho chapter of Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and reads, writes, and dreams of children’s stories in her free time.

From Seattle's Child, June 2003.