Working with schoolchildren
Tales told in school
Off and on over the years, starting in the 1990s, I have volunteered to read to grade school children (the first several times via a program, Book Pals, sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild that sent actors to NYC schools to read). The first gig evolved into teaching drama to children at PS138 in Brooklyn. In the next few gigs, at PS3 in Manhattan's West Village (where I moved from Brooklyn in June, 1995), I developed a spring program (that is, after I'd been reading to a class for several months) of having the class collaborate on writing a story.
I developed the idea for this from a program, Open Book, in which I participated that went to Manhattan grade schools and worked with classes to create plays written by the pupils. I especially adopted the starting approach of bringing a strange photo to the class and asking them to make up a story (instead of a play) that explains what the photo is about. This process took at least a few weeks, and I then wrote up the story based on what the class had composed. I tried as much as possible to keep a tone and vocabulary that would reflect the students' own, but of course just by putting the story in my own words I changed its exact spirit.
The stories I present here are exactly as written at the time (that is, I'm not editing them at all) and distributed to the pupils at the end of the project.