Kamishibai

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Kamishibai, a traditional, low-tech form of Japanese storytelling, has magical effects on your audience.  I fell in love with it last month thanks to Deborah Abner, my friend and wonderful librarian at Lincoln School in Brookline, which has an ELL program for its large Japanese student population. She asked me to use it for library lessons during Sakura Week when I subbed for her. It’s easy, fun, and totally engaging. Yes, that’s me up there, having a great time!

The golden age of Kamishibai in Japan was from 1920-1950, when storytellers travelled regular routes, selling candy and telling stories, including folktales, sci-fi, adventure, and sometimes even war propaganda.  It fell out of favor when tv came along. Kamishibai was considered backwards and vulgar, and the artists turned to manga. The art form was revived recently in school settings, mainly as vehicles for folk tales. 

Kamishibai kits include the box in into which you slide prepared images with text printed on the back.  While your audience looks at strong graphic illustrations, you read the text off the back of the card with instructions for expression and timing. The kit might include wooden clappers announce the the show. You can buy Kamishibai stories, too.

During my lessons, I read Momotaro Peach Boy and The Inch Boy and worked in a lesson about cliffhangers, an important part of the Kamishibai tradition. Possibilities for this art form in the classroom include students making original Kamishibai, and students reading Kamishibai aloud for fluency.

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