Book Review: Story Drama in “You Gotta BE the Book”

By Lorena

One of my favorite parts of the book “You Gotta Be the Book” was when Wilhelm talked about the use of drama to help struggling readers achieve their reading goals. Many of the people would ask, “Why drama?”  Let me explain that drama is not what it seems.  Drama is a way of entering and responding to literature.  It’s not only acting, it is about making connections, analyzing, discussing, and evaluating characters, plot, setting, problems, etc.  Wilhelm got three reluctant students to do the drama study.  He found out that these students were not able to enter the story world. He also found out that these students were not able to relate to the story. In this case this particular student would only read self-chosen books and when the genre of the book would change she would be confused. On the other hand, there was another student that could not comprehend what he was reading.  One of the reasons they were not able to do that is because they were focused on reading correctly rather than trying to understand the material.  Wilhelm wanted to change that.  He wanted his students to have access to a “secondary world”.  This means being able to put them in the role of the character, imagining the story in their heads, and entering this new world where they become the book.  The definition that Wilhelm gave to story drama is any activity that requires entering a character point of view or attitude and enacting the situation or conflict that involves it.  The following activities that I am going to explain were used by Wilhelm to help struggling readers to understand what they are reading.  One of the activities is dramatic play.  Here students would role play characters of the story.  Another activity is Guided Imagery.  This is where students were asked to imagine scenes and write about them.  A third activity is  Snapshot and Tableaux Dramas.  Here students would stop in important events in the story to write about it or draw it.  Lastly is Correspondence where students wrote and responded to diaries, postcards, letters, and advertisements in the role of the character.  There are many more strategies that Wilhem used in his books.  To conclude, the “secondary world” has been made accessible to readers through story drama.  Story Drama allowed them to enter and merge with the text to create meaning to what they were reading.

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