Book Week

I love Book Week. I love going to my children’s school for the Book Week Parade. I love helping them come up with costume ideas. 3/5 of our family have their birthdays in Book Week (including me) and it is my busiest storytelling week of the year.

On a normal week, when I visit a childcare centre I have a theme in mind and tell stories and sing songs that match the theme. If I have a costume that matches the theme, all the better. Many of the childcare centres I visit are regular clients so the themes are fun and help to keep things fresh each visit.

When I visit schools they may not have seen me ‘tell’ before so I’ll usually choose a selection of stories that showcase what a storyteller does. I’ll prepare a wide selection so I can adapt the program across year levels. I might be ‘telling’ to preschoolers one minute and grade fours the next and I can adapt the program on the go to suit the age and mood of the audience.

I wanted to stretch myself and try something a bit different in 2018. The CBCA Book Week theme for 2018 was Find Your Treasure. All manner of piratey things sprang to mind. I had some stories about pirates, they might be fun. But what else could I do…

Throughout 2017 and 2018 I’d had the pleasure of visiting some escape rooms in Canberra, Perth and Queenstown in New Zealand. They were a lot of fun and challenging. There were clues to find, puzzles to solve and they were built around a story. ‘Can you escape this room before it blows up?’ ‘Can you help Santa sort out his presents before midnight?’ and I thought, ‘why not create a storytelling program with puzzles and clues to solve along the way?’ So that is just what I did.

Pirates have stolen my favourite brooch! They’ve left some clues for me to follow, can you help me solve them and find my brooch before our session is over?

I used my pirate stories and some other favourites and bought a series of lockable props. I had everything from a document folder with a colour coded padlock to a novelty high school locker and a purple petty cash tin. Every box contained a clue. Some clues were written in rhyme, some typed in reverse so they could only be read with a mirror and some requiring other purchased or homemade tools to read and solve them. Each clue linked to a story that I would perform. I also used puppets, maps, sheets of newspaper and a UV torch as well as a few red herrings on my props table to add a bit of confusion. At the end of the story, I would either read a clue or invite a child to read it to the group and we would solve it together.

A second hand book and a sharp blade helped create the perfect hiding place.

A second hand book and a sharp blade helped create the perfect hiding place.

Within the program I left some scope to change a few stories to better suit my audiences and everyone from preschool to upper primary got involved in solving the clues. Younger audiences were given help and prompts while I gave older audiences more freedom to solve the clues themselves.

My props table.

My props table.

Every group found my precious brooch by the end of the session. It was great fun and wonderful to see the kids so involved. Oh and did I mention we all sang a very silly song in pirate voices?

So much storytelling in one week can be exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. I’ll often take Book Week-specific bookings for several weeks too so Book Week is rarely finished when the official week is done.

This year’s CBCA Book Week theme is Reading is my Secret Power. I’m searching high and low for stories and folktales of heroes and secret powers and starting to think of clues to string it together into another fun and interactive session. I can’t wait!

So this Book Week, I’ll pack my emergency butter menthols, my trolley of props, tie my superhero cape around my neck and fly off on an adventure. I’d love for you to join me!