Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chester Fest Part 2: Now that we are all agreed on the fabulosity of Chester, how can we fully experience his genius?

Here we are with our big star, Chester. We have laughed at all his books, we are amazed by his genius. But who do we share him with? How do we, gasp, make him educational? Can we make Chester crafts?

Well, you can forget the educational part, because, hey, I'm not a teacher. Mostly because I don't like making books educational. You can see "curriculum connections" (plus lots of other cool ideas) on the Kids Can Press website. I have items of less educational value, at least on the surface, to share.

First, who should read Chester? Duh, everybody. Oh, you meant appropriate ages. Well, in my opinion, the ideal age for Chester is K-3rd grade. This is the age group that is starting to become comfortable with the idea of narrative and they have a sense of humor, both very important for Chester. It really makes a difference if your audience can read, at least a little, so they can see which parts of the story Chester is writing.

But do not limit yourself! No! Chester is great fun to read with toddlers and play find-the-big-fat-cat and the little-tiny-mousie and for learning to recognize the color RED. It's hilarious! Try it sometime!

Preschoolers, well, not all of them will get the humor. They just don't understand sarcasm at that age. Plus, as I said before, it really helps if your audience can see which parts are Chester...however, this can easily be dealt with by using your storytelling powers! Melanie has an exasperated, don't-make-me-come-over-there-furball voice. Chester has a cross between whiny and I'm-being-very-silly voices and can sometimes be Very Loud, thus prompting your circulation staff to wonder what the heck you are Doing In There.

Kindergarteners through 3rd grade will just laugh themselves sick. But we are not stopping there! Oh no! Guess what books I took with me to demonstrate reading aloud techniques to a high school child development class? Yep. Chester. They completely cracked up!

But we can't just read stories! We have to do crafts and activities and, you know, stuff!

Fortunately for us, Chester is just begging to do stuff! For younger kids, some lined paper and lots of red markers and you are set! Draw your own Chester! Make your own red scribbles!

I have a fun writing project in mind for Chester that I want to try with my tweens next fall...we are going to read the Chester books, laugh uproariously, and then I'm going to give them each a basic "story" and they get to bring out their red markers and create a "Chesterized" story. I think it will work. If you have a group you've worked for a while with and they're comfortable with each other, they could do this as a team - one person write the basic story, the other person be Chester.

The third Chester book, Chester's Masterpiece, is even more than the others about the art of writing. You can really make this one educational. Of course, you can also make kids, you know, hate it too. Whatever. But it's a fun way to brainstorm writing ideas - maybe for a writing club? Definitely more fun for a writing class than a textbook on writing techniques!

How do you use Chester at your library? Share your ideas! Spread the glory of Chester!


Marge Loch-Wouters said...

You gotta submit this to the Festival of Children's Literature!

The deadline to submit posts for the March Carnival of Children's Literature is Thursday, March 25th. The March Carnival will be hosted by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


CLM said...

Someone on Goodreads recommended Chester last summer and I got the first one out of the library and read it to nephews and nieces, 4, 6, 9 and 11. They all loved it at different levels. Crafts is a great idea, at least for the two boys.

PS - I think I sent you one of my duplicate Jean Littles via Bookmooch.

Katie Fries said...

Wonderful post! I came here through the March Carnival. My boys, ages 4 and 6, are huge Chester fans. You are correct; the humor is best appreciated by kids who have learned or are learning to read, but both boys love Chester on different levels. Something about these books just inspires my kids to get creative--after the first time we read Chester my older son drew an entire cityscape based on Chester.