Wednesday, February 9, 2011


You may not know this, but I am a big fan of reader's theater. I have such fond memories of watching the excitement of my own kids as they participated in reader's theater, and I've even written some vignettes myself for teachers to use in conjunction with LEAVING GEE'S BEND. So I was particularly joyous when I head about Doraine Bennett's new book entitled READER'S THEATER FOR GLOBAL EXPLORERS.

To help celebrate the release of the book, I invited Doraine (who is such a lovely person - seriously, visit her blog)to answer some questions about this fun project.

1. What are the benefits of using Reader's Theater to teach history?
Reader's Theater lets students bring a character, an event, or an unfamiliar culture to life.They have the opportunity to "become" the character without the trappings of an actual play. In order to interpret a character well, the reader has to understand the emotions that character experienced in any given scene. Getting to the bottom of those emotions gives the reader new insight into history. And of course, the side benefit to all reader's theater productions is that students develop fluency.

2. I especially love "The North Pole: Who Was First? (or Did They Really Get There At All?) because of the unexpected way the information is presented. How did you choose that particular viewpoint?

The North Pole was the most difficult of all the scripts I wrote. The entire country was in a uproar over the events. There was controversy, backbiting, accusations swirling around both Peary and Cook. I felt like I couldn't write their story without really understanding it. Cook seemed such a likable guy, I wanted him to have won. But he truly was a scam artist. Unfortunately this fact blinded people to the accomplishments he did make in his understanding and treatment of the Native Americans. Peary on the other hand was an egotistical boor. His original records have still never been released, so there really is some question about whether he actually made it. And of course Matthew Henson was the one who got him as far as he did get. I finally came up with the courtroom scene as a way to present the facts that were known and the ones that were intentionally obscured. I think the ending gives students a great beginning point for discussion.

3. Tell us a bit about your process. How does writing Reader's Theater differ from the other nonfiction work that you have done?
The process of writing reader's theater is more like writing historical fiction than nonfiction, because you are creating a scene. And you must choose one or two simple scenes that convey the essence of the entire story. There's the same amount of research that you would expect in a nonfiction book, the facts are the facts. They are just presented in a different format.

4. You've written a slew of books for the educational market. Tell us how this particular book came to be -- from idea to publication.
I follow the blog of a wonderful nonfiction writer named Nancy I. Sanders. In March 2009, Nancy walked her readers through the process of identifying gaps in a publisher's series of books, and then sending a query to offer a proposal before writing the book. I researched Libraries Unlimited who had a series called Readers Theatre. It's a bit nerve-racking, but I found some of their books in the library and thought--okay, I could do that. I looked at the line of titles and sent an email query to editor asking if she would like to see a proposal for a book on explorers, and two other topics which I can't even remember now. I got an e-mail reply saying yes. So, I picked explorers from my list of topics, took about three months to write a proposal following the guidelines on the website. I included a table of contents and one script. In August, I got a phone call saying they wanted to offer me a contract. They gave me until July 2010 to complete the project. And the book came out in late December 2010.

5. If you could actually live in any of the scenes that you've created for Global Explorers, which story and role would you choose?
I'm really partial to Sir Ernest Shackleton. I think sledding on your bum down a frozen mountain on South Georgia Island with him would have been a hair-raising, exhilarating, once-in-a lifetime memory. Assuming you survived, of course.


  1. Irene, thanks for hosting me. I always love finding another reader's theater fan.

  2. Terrific interview, ladies! How fun to get unexpected insights into some history as well as to get a peek into all the hard work Doraine put into making this book a reality. Congratulations, Doraine.

  3. Thanks, Robyn. I appreciate the kudos. And thanks to you for all the work putting together the poetry retreat this summer. I'm very excited about it.

  4. Really interesting! Doraine, you have great imagination to write a book like this.

  5. Thanks, Mary. It was a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but we all know about that combination in the writing world. I do hope kids and teachers will be excited about it.


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