What is Reader's Theater?
Reader's theater is often defined by what it is not. It has no memorizing, acting, props, costumes, or sets. Children use their voices, facial expressions, and hand gestures to interpret their characters.
Tips for Reader's Theater Performances
- Arrange the readers in a row or semicircle facing the audience. They may all stand or sit. If the readers stand, they may take a step forward while reading and step back when finished. If sitting, they may stand while reading and sit when finished.
- If there are two narrators, put one on each side of the stage.
- Readers may hold their scripts, or the scripts may be placed on music stands.
- A child may be assigned to read more than one role. It is best if the two characters do not have consecutive lines.
- Review words that are difficult to pronounce and define words that the readers may not understand.
- Allow time for the players to read the script silently. Provide pens and markers for them to highlight their lines and make "stage" notes, such as "gruff voice." If time permits, let them read the script aloud before the performance. It is best if the readers know their lines well enough to look at the audience at least part of the time.
- Ask one player to introduce the title and author of the story. Instruct all players to freeze until the audience is quiet and ready to listen.
- When the reading is finished, the readers will freeze for a long moment and then they all bow together
Here Comes Darrell
A Reader's Theater Presentation
By Debbie Gonzales
(Based on Here Comes Darrell by Leda Shubert, 2005. Used with Permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.)
- Narrator 1 - Wintertime
- Narrator 2 - Springtime
- Narrator 3 - Summer
- Narrator 4 - Fall
- Darrell - an elderly man
- Judy - Darrell's wife
- Buster - Darrell's dog
- Tommy Hart - a neighbor boy
- Mrs. Hart - a neighbor
- Mrs. Barrett - a neighbor
- Mr. Barrett - a neighbor
- David Barrett - a neighbor boy
- Beth Barrett - a neighbor girl
- Andy Murphy - a neighbor boy
- Mr. Murphy - a neighbor
Here Comes Darrell
Narrator 1: This story begins in wintertime. It was snowing hard and the thermometer read two below zero, but Darrell was ready to work at 4 o'clock on a freezing Vermont morning.
Darrell: (Slipping on his heavy coat) I'll be home for breakfast.
Judy: (Groggy) I'll make eggs and home fries.
Narrator 1: Even though the main roads had been cleared by the town snowplows, people with long driveways would be trapped without Darrell. His old truck started on the second try and Buster jumped into the front seat. It was so cold that Darrell's nose hairs froze. As he pulled away, he noticed his barn roof sagged under the weight of the snow.
First, Darrell plowed out folks who had to get to work early. Porch lights flashed in thanks, and he blinked his headlights back. His stomach growled as, through a window, he saw a neighbor making breakfast. By seven o'clock Darrell had plowed twenty-one driveways. The truck radio blared, "All local schools are closed."
Darrell: (Pets Buster) Good thing, right Buster?
Buster: Bark! Bark!
Narrator 1: The roads were too slippery for school buses. The Harts' driveway was so steep and narrow that there was not much room to dump the heavy snow. As Darrell lowered the plow, the rear wheels slid off the road. He rocked the truck back and forth, back and forth. The tires swirled, the engine whines, and the back end swung closer to a ditch.
Darrell: (Thumps the dashboard) Come on, come on.
Narrator 1: And the truck jumped forward. Buster almost fell off the seat. At the house, Tommy Hart waved.
Tommy: (Shouts) Mom says have some coffee.
Darrell: (Shouts) Tell her thanks, but I've got more driveways.
Tommy: (Shouts) Can I help?
Darrell: (Nods) For a minute.
Narrator 1: Tommy climbed into the cab of Darrell's truck, sat on his lap, and they plowed a hill of snow.
Tommy: (Excited) Oh, boy! Mom and I can go sledding!
Darrell: (Smiles) She'll like that.
Narrator 2: Darrell then turned toward his twenty-third driveway and began to think about Judy's fried eggs. In the springtime, it was forty degrees when Darrell finished loading his dump truck. Winter hangs on forever in Northern Vermont, and the air still smelled like wood smoke. Since dawn Darrell had been splitting logs. The Barretts ran out of firewood and called Darrell in a panic.
Mr. Barrett: (Worried) We don't know when we'll be able to pay.
Darrell: (Waves him off) That's okay…Keep those kids warm.
Narrator 2: Just before Darrell leaves Judy called out…
Judy: (Shouts) Don't forget about our barn roof. Looks like a good wind will lift right off.
Narrator 2: Darrell picks up Buster.
Darrell: (Nonchalant) I'll get to it soon.
Narrator 2: Mud season arrived, and the dirt roads were like chocolate pudding. The truck hit a rut and shot sideways, sinking into a hole at the bottom of the Barretts' hill. Darrell and Buster waded through the mud up to the house.
Darrell: (Raises hands in frustration) Looks like I'm stuck!
Mrs. Barrett: (Excitedly) We're coming!
Narrator 2: The Barretts and their two kids, David and Beth, helped Darrell unload the wood.
Darrell: I'll be back for the truck.
Mrs. Brett: We'll drive you home. But come by first for some apple pie.
Darrell: (Shakes his head) No time…
Narrator 2: Darrell handed carefully carved birds to Beth and David.
Beth: (Gratefully) Oh! Thank you! Will you teach me to whittle?
Darrell: (Humbly) Sure.
Beth: Then I'm going to learn to carve a dog just like Buster.
Buster: Bark! Bark!
Darrell: (Nods and grins)
Narrator 3: Summertime came and the temperature was eighty-five degrees. Black flies are biting Darrell as he started his backhoe. The Murphy's were building a new room, and Darrell was the excavator.
Judy: (Hands on hips, angry) Winter will be here sooner than you think. Our barn roof was in bad need of repair!
Narrator 3: Though the roof looked terrible, Darrell said…
Darrell: (Waves Judy off) It doesn't look that bad.
Narrator 3: The backhoe was a large machine, but Darrell was an artist. If a hammer dropped on the ground, he could pick it up with the big bucket as if he were using tweezers.
(Darrell began scooping and moving load and after load of earth.)
(The Murphys arrived as he finished digging. Andy Murphy threw a ball and it flew into the hole. Buster jumped in after it and couldn't climb out.)
Andy: (Hands on either side of his face) Sorry!
Darrell: Don't worry, Andy. (Pantomime shifting gears)
Narrator 3: Darrell swung the bucket around, gently picked up Buster and deposited him on the bank. Buster shook off.
Buster: (Shake vigorously)
Narrator 4: Autumn in Vermont…the temperature was fifty degrees and the wind was fierce. One brilliant October day, Darrell, Judy, and Buster climbed into the old truck. They were off to visit neighbors to see what everybody needed before winter. Judy keeps a list.
Judy: (Sighs) Darrell, what about the barn?
Darrell: (Tenderly pats Judy's shoulder) Tomorrow. I promise.
Narrator 4: This time he meant it, because soon the cows would have to come inside.
Some people needed to have their driveways fixed. Some needed firewood. The wind picked up as the list grew longer. Tree branches crashed into the road, and Darrell held tightly to the steering wheel on a gusty hill.
Darrell: (Concerned and frantic) Now I'm worried about that roof.
Narrator 4: When they get home, their barn roof was GONE! Darrell slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the truck. Buster ran in wild circles. They hurried to the barn, where the Harts and Barretts are already taking measurements. Mr. Murphy hurried to greet Darrell.
Mr. Murphy: (Concerned) We saw it go and rushed right over.
Beth Barrett: (Excitedly) We're going to have a barn raising!
Narrator 4: The neighborly kindness made Darrell feel embarrassed.
Mrs. Murphy: (Warmly) You've helped all of us over and over. We're happy to help you.
Mr. Barrett: It's the very least we can do for you after all you do for us.
Narrator 4: Mrs. Hart led Darrell to the table.
Mrs. Hart: (Arms open wide) We brought over some supper. Come and eat.
Mrs. Barrett: (Warmly) Yes, please…there's plenty of stew for all.
David: And lots of rolls…
Tommy: and butter…
Andy: (Excitedly) …and pie, too! (Licks his lips)
Narrator 4: It was getting dark outside, but inside it felt as if the sun were shining. Beth Barrett, Andy Murphy, and Tommy Hart brought Darrell and Judy heaping plates of delicious food, and everyone was safe and sound…even Darrell.
Buster: (Excitedly) Bark! Bark!
Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer
A Reader's Theater Presentation
Adapted by Debbie Gonzales
(Based on Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer by Carol Brendler. Used with permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.)
- Winnie Finn - a somewhat eccentric girl close to 10 years old who wears a worn visor, a red t-shirt, ragged tennis shoes, vividly colored plastic bangle brackets and beaded necklaces
- Cat - Winnie's expressive side-kick
- Mr. Abernathy - a pompous, well-dressed neighbor who grows corn
- Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan - A demure Asian chicken farmer
- Mr. Peasley - Tall, thin, mustached, puppy-raising neighbor
Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer
Narrator: Winnie Finn was earthworm crazy. She turned over stones all around Quincy County in hopes of meeting squirmy worms.
Winnie Finn: (Pantomiming a worm search. Caress a found worm.)
Cat: (Sticks out tongue, recoiling in disgust.)
Narrator: After a rain, Winnie found worms on sidewalks and coaxed them back into their holes.
Winnie Finn: (Dramatize worm coaxing behavior)
Narrator: On cloudy days she took them for rides in her rickety wagon.
Winnie Finn: (Dramatize pulling a rusty, wobbly, broken down wagon.)
Narrator: And sometimes she even raced them!
Winnie Finn: (Excitedly) Go! Go! Go! Yay!!!
Cat: (Shakes head in disgust)
Narrator: Winnie Finn knew that the biggest earthworm ever was ten feet long.
Winnie Finn: (Astonished expression, arms open wide)
Narrator: She knew that an earthworm has five hearts.
Winnie Finn: (Wide-eyed, mocks counting the fingers on one slowly)
Narrator: And she knew which end was its head and which was its tail because the head always goes first when it moves.
Winnie Finn: (Nods knowingly)
Cat: (Rolls eyes)
Narrator: Then spring came to Quincy County, Winnie started thinking about the Quincy County Fair. The fair had prizes for things like the best-looking puppies, the best-laying eggs, and the best growing cornstalks.
Winnie Finn: (Dreamy-eyed, pondering)
Narrator: Winnie Finn wanted to win a prize, too. With the prize money, she could get herself a brand new wagon. Did they have a prize at the Quincy County Fair for the best worms?
Mr. Abernathy: (Arm raised in defiance) Worms? Nonsense. There's no prize for worms. This year, I'm raising corn. With the right fertilizer, my stalks will shoot up high enough to pluck their own raindrops from the clouds! If only I knew what the right fertilizer was. I'd share my prize with anyone who could bring me some.
Winnie Finn: (Listens intently)
Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan: Worms! (Shakes head) Don't be silly. There's no prize for worms. I'm raising Plymouth Rock hens this time. With the right feed, they'll lay so many eggs we'll be eating omelets the size of rubber rafts for breakfast! If only I knew what the right feed was. I'd share my prize with anyone who could find it for me.
Winnie Finn: (Looks to Cat with interest)
Mr. Peasley: Worms? Are you sure Winnie?
Winnie Finn: (Nods while petting a puppy)
Mr. Peasley: I don't think there is a prize for worms. This summer, I'm raising Afghan pups. If I can make their coats smooth and sleek as slipper satin, they're sure to win a prize. If only I knew how to give them shiny coats. I'd share my prize with anyone who could tell me that.
Winnie Finn: (Smiles broadly)
Narrator: Winnie Finn knew how to find the right corn fertilizer and the right chicken feed. And she knew how to give puppies shiny coats. It all started with worms.
So, she borrowed a seed crate from Mr. Abernathy.
Winnie Finn: (Pantomime carrying a huge wooden crate)
Mr. Abernathy: (Indignant) You can't pin a blue ribbon on a worm, Winnie Finn.
Narrator: Winnie asked Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan for some chicken manure.
Winnie Finn: (Pinches her nose, pretending to hold a burlap bag)
Cat: (Winces from the odor)
Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan: (Wagging her finger in the air) There's no worm trophy, young lady.
Narrator: And Winnie asked to borrow the washtub Mr. Peasley used while bathing his pups.
Mr. Peasley: (Calls out) There's no 'Best-in-Show' for worms, Winnie Finn.
Winnie Finn: (Straight-backed and proud)
Narrator: But Winnie didn't pay them any mind. Soon she'd be sharing their prizes. Soon she'd have a brand-new wagon.
Winnie Finn: (Proudly) First, I'll make a worm farm. (Pantomime the following narrator script)
Narrator: She filled Mr. Abernathy's crate with soil, strips of newspaper, and leaves. That would be the worms' house. She mixed in Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan's smelly chicken manure. That would be the worms' food. The she filled Mr. Peasley's washtub with water and poured it over everything.
Winnie Finn: This will keep the worms moist and help them breathe.
Narrator: Winnie found all the red wigglers she could. She spread them over their new home and watched them slither into the soil. For weeks, Winnie Finn watered her worm farm. She fed the worms egg shells, coffee grounds, and carrot peelings. She took them for walks and she sang to them.
Winnie Finn: La…la…la….
Narrator: She even tried to give them all names, but it was hard to tell them apart - even for Winnie Finn!
Winnie Finn: (Shrugs)
Narrator: Finally, the worm farm was ready. Winnie found Mr. Abernathy watering his corn crop. In her broken-down rickety wagon, she brought the worm farm to him.
Winnie Finn: I have a present for you, Mr. Abernathy. Spread this around your corn. You'll have cornstalks tall enough to pluck their own raindrops out of the sky.
Narrator: Sure enough, a few weeks later, the corn was taller than Winnie.
Mr. Abernathy: (Smiling broadly) Winnie Finn! You were right! Worm fertilizer is just what this corn needed. How can I thank you?
Winnie Finn: Some corn would be nice, Mr. Abernathy.
Narrator: Winnie Finn took the corn to Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan.
Winnie Finn: I have something for you. Feed this fresh corn to your hens. You'll have plenty of eggs for omelets the size of rubber rafts for breakfast.
Narrator: Sure enough, a couple of weeks later, Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan's hens were laying so many eggs that she had to scramble to keep up.
Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan: (Gasps) My goodness, Winnie Finn! Fresh corn is just what my darlings needed. How ever can I thank you?
Winnie Finn: With eggs, please, Mrs. Y-O.
Narrator: Winnie Finn gave the eggs to Mr. Peasley.
Winnie Finn: Fix these in with your puppies' food. They'll have coats as smooth and sleek as slipper satin.
Mr. Peasley: (Rushing) Thank you, Winnie! You are so clever. I'll mix some up right this minute.
Narrator: On the day of the Quincy County Fair, everybody came to see who would take first places.
Winnie Finn: (Crosses fingers)
Cat: (Crosses paws)
Narrator: Winnie kept her fingers crossed for the judging of the tallest cornstalk, the best egg layer, and the prettiest puppy. And Mr. Abernathy's cornstalks…
Mr. Abernathy: (Puffed with pride)
Narrator: Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Brien's Plymouth Rock hens…
Mrs. Yamasaki-O'Sheridan: (Bows deeply in Namaste)
Narrator: And Mr. Peasley's pups…
Mr. Peasley: (Smiling while giving two "thumbs-up")
Narrator: Y'all took first prizes thanks to Winnie Finn and her worm farm. With her share of the prize money, Winnie picked out the best new wagon in Quincy County.
Winnie Finn: (Looking prideful)
Narrator: And on her way home, she couldn't help but notice… Mrs. Alluvial's drooping dahlias… Mr. Yorkington-Smith-Smythe's second rate Rhode Island Red hens… And Mrs. Marcontony's lackluster Lhasa apsos.
Winnie Finn: (Eyes bright with a new idea)
Narrator: Winnie would have to find more worms!
Cat: (Meows) Ohhh…nooo.