We have a real treat for you today – educator, writer, and craft designer Emily Neuburger (see her blog at redbirdcrafts.com) joins us to talk about her 2012 book, Show Me a Story and some related library programming she did for the Boston Public Library. Enjoy (I mean, how can you NOT?!)! ~ Laura

Emily's book!

Emily’s book!

Please introduce yourself and your project “Show Me a Story”. 

Hi, Laura! Thank you so much for inviting me to share a bit about my book and library workshops with The Library as Incubator Project.

I’m Emily Neuburger – teacher, children’s craft designer, and author of the book Show Me a Story- 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children’s Storytelling. My background in education fuels my passion for developing projects and designs that encourage people to tell stories. Throughout my teaching career, I’ve been especially interested in how art informs writing and vice versa, and how both nurture people’s capacity to imagine.  Show Me a Story was born from my deep interest in the connection between literacy and art as well as my fondness for encouraging children to find themselves lost in their own imaginary worlds. Embedded in each of my carefully designed projects is the hope that it will inspire imaginative thought, and at the same time, spread around a little bit of joy.

When I get to have my own creative time, I love painting on cardboard, collecting bits of nature, experimenting with color, writing poems, sketching with my left hand and sewing on paper.

See also: Emily’s blog at redbirdcrafts.com.

Can you talk a bit about the concepts/ideas behind “Show Me a Story” – the relationship between learning, literacy, and hands-on “making” activities? Why is a craft project such an important part of storytelling?

Emily Neuberger, writer, educator, and craft designer.

Emily Neuburger, writer, educator, and craft designer.

As I mentioned above, I’m especially interested in the intersection of literacy and art and how it is different and unique for each child. Often, the pathway from creative art to storytelling and writing is quite effortless and natural, which leads children to feel empowered and confident. When a child discovers that their artwork has opened a door for them into a rich world of creative storytelling, it is a magical, energizing moment.   In Show Me a Story I’ve created projects and crafts that are open ended enough to allow each individual child to find where that connection is for them.

In a time when video games and screen time are so prevalent, child-driven, imaginative play (like the kind in Show Me a Story) is vital for children’s developmental growth. Children who are drawn towards reading and writing can use their own stories as a way to connect to visual arts, and children who are reluctant writers can use art to expand their writing.

Can you tell us about your experience so far in the library workshops that you’ve hosted in Boston? What are some of the topics and activities you’ve done in the library? 

Sure!  In May of this year, I visited ten different branches of the Boston Public Library (BPL) during the afterschool hours between 3:00-5:00.  The BPL has set aside funding for bringing an after school enrichment activity to these ten library branches once a month throughout the school year. I was honored to be the enrichment activity for the month of May! The librarians and students were incredibly kind and welcoming, which made the visits a complete joy

I taught the Story Map project from Show Me a Story where children created their own imaginary lands using watercolors, art markers, colored pencils and newsprint.  The children were intensely creative and talented; I left each visit having witnessed unique, innovative ways of interpreting the project.  From imaginary lands in the water and in the air, lands with underground villages, and lands made out of recycled materials, the creative interpretations were endless!  I was truly blown away by their creations.

Their detail rich depictions of pretend lands are the perfect foundation for developing elaborate characters and stories. I encouraged them to continue to refer to their maps when they write and tell stories after our time together.  When I teach the project to students, I am sure to emphasize that the process is just as important as the end product; the time spent considering and dreaming up their maps is just as valuable as their time spent using it to create stories afterwards.

I’m so thankful that the BPL offers this kind of programming to children who use the library as a safe place to do homework after school.  It was abundantly clear that the children were thrilled and excited to become immersed in a creative project during this time of day.

In my travels to other libraries, I’ve taught my Story Disk and Memory Card projects as well.  This is the link to my website where I describe my programs. (http://www.redbirdcrafts.com/p/programs.html)

From a practical perspective, how did you work with the library branches to plan your event? Did you work with one contact at each branch, or was it coordinated through a central person/office? Did the libraries plan activities/displays to support/extend your event?

The process was very simple and straightforward. I worked with one contact person who coordinated my visits to the ten branches.

The librarians were supportive and helpful in promoting my program.  The libraries had fliers and signs announcing the event and the librarians were very helpful in recruiting children to join the group.  It was especially lovely to see that the librarians knew most of the children by name, and were clearly invested in their success.  Librarians are super humans!

What advice do you have for guest artists who are interested in bringing their program to a library?

Connect with people!  Let others know about your programs via your website and local papers. If you are just starting out, consider teaching a few classes free of charge, and ask participants (teachers, librarians, parents) to write a few sentences about their experiences.  You can then use this endorsement to spread the word about your programs.

Thank you so much for having me here today, Laura!  It was so nice to share my experiences with you and your readers. You can find more about my thoughts on creative living, artful inspiration, and unexpected treasures on my blog, www.redbirdcrafts.com.

Happy storytelling!

~ Emily Neuburger

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