Women carry on tradition of Readers Theater

Published 9:00 pm Friday, October 20, 2023

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Both students and performers enjoy monthly visits

By Kim Gooden, for the Tribune

For the past 30-plus years, a group of ladies in Alden have performed Readers Theater scripts for students at Alden-Conger Elementary School, and it’s hard to tell who enjoys it more – the students or the performers.

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“We all think it’s a lot of fun,” said Kay Marschalk, speaking for the group.

Liz Thunstedt agreed and pointed out how much the students enjoy it.

“All of us have had kids come up to us outside of school and say, ‘You’re in Readers Theater!’” Thunstedt said.

Trick-or-treaters also frequently say the same thing when Marschalk opens the door to pass out treats on Halloween.

Readers Theater is when readers read a script adapted from literature, while the audience pictures the action from hearing the script being read aloud. The focus is on reading the script with expressive voices and gestures, which makes understanding what’s being read meaningful and fun for the students.

Marschalk is currently the organizer of the monthly activity that goes from October through April. As such, she chooses which script they will perform, assigns the parts and figures out what they will need for props.

“I call around to see how many of our group will be able to help each month and then choose a script based on the number of participants,” Marschalk said.

Then they gather at her home to practice prior to performing at the school. If there are props needed that she doesn’t have, they go through their closets and look for things that will work or they make them.

The Readers Theater scripts are performed in the classrooms for students in kindergarten through third grade and are eagerly anticipated each month.

At the last performance of the school year in April, every student receives a book donated by the Lions Club and the Alden Tuesday Study Club.

“Then we get a packet of pictures and thank yous from the kids,” Thunstedt said.

After reading through them, Jan Reshetar said, “‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’ ‘Red Hen Ball’ and ‘Smelly Socks’ were some of their favorites last year.”

Marschalk has a file of different scripts but says there are some that they repeat from one year to the next simply because the kids like them.

Reshetar likes Readers Theater because “we get to act silly at our age and no one minds!”

When Readers Theater began in Alden over 30 years ago, it was sponsored by Senior Resources, Marschalk said.

“They provided the scripts and the props and paid for the books at the end of the year. But when their funding ran out, we decided to keep it going.”

Phyllis Meyer, a former member of the group who participated well into her 90s, was a strong advocate for Readers Theater and for reading, according to Marschalk and Myrna Sorensen, who have been in the group for many years.

Other members of the group include Thunstedt, Reshetar, Carolyn Martinson, Candy Johnson, Tammy Williams and Julie Bernau.

There are no special requirements to participate in Readers Theater beyond the ability to read and the desire to inspire children to read.