Readers Theater

The following excerpt was taken from A Celebration of Literature and Response: Children, Books, and Teachers in K-8 Classrooms (Prentice Hall, 2000) by Marjorie R. Hancock. It can be applied equally toward Cousin Ruth’s Tooth or Rachel Fister’s Blister. (And for an example of Reader’s Theater in action, here is a Chinese school doing a Reader’s Theater version of Little Beaver and the Echo –in English that is. Plus they added music!)


“Reader’s theater as a dramatic response mode provides an effective means to communicate the language of literature and the joy of reading. Readers theater defines a presentation of text that is expressively and dramatically read aloud by two or more readers. While the primary emphasis is on reading aloud (as opposed to memorization, action, props, or costumes), the intent is for the readers to read expressively so that they paint an image of the events and actions in the minds of the audience (Bauer, 1987). While the words come from literature, the expressive response comes from inside the heart of the reader as he or she internalizes both characters and situation. …

“While intended to benefit the reader through smoother reading fluency, increased sight vocabulary, and improved comprehension, readers’ theater as response to literature focuses on other outcomes as well (Laughlin & Latrobe, 1989). Expressiveness of oral reading and individual interpretation of text constitutes the core of personal response. Delivery, tone, pitch, and volume become components of expression as the reader strives to share the emotion of the text. Personal interpretation results in individual response as the meaning one derives from the text gives rise to the emotional effort behind the oral interpretation of text (Wolf, 1994).

“Teacher-generated scripts provide a preliminary experience for initial efforts at readers’ theater with personal expression emphasized as a response mode. As simple starting point for while class response is Amy MacDonald’s Cousin Ruth’s Tooth. This humorous story follows the Fister family and friends as they seek a solution for the latest family crisis-a lost tooth. The search efforts of relatives, neighbors, and friends move at a rapid pace to the solution offered by the wise Queen. The text easily adapts into a script with minimal roles for about 20 students. The crisp, brief, fast-paced text abounds with humorous characters and should be introduced as a read-aloud and reread and savored several times before a response performance. Characters are likely to match distinct classroom personalities to bring a read-aloud to life through readers’ theater response. [See sample script below.] A similar romp might be created with MacDonald’s earlier title, Rachel Fister’s Blister.”

Cousin Ruth’s Tooth
by Amy MacDonald
Illus. by Marjorie Priceman
Houghton Mifflin, 1996

Adapted for a Reader’s Theater

MRS. FISTER:    Rachel Fister! Get your sister!
NARRATOR:    Mrs. Fister spread the word.
MRS. FISTER:    Cousin Ruth has lost a tooth! O, careless youth! It’s too absurd!
RACHEL:    Never mind it! We shall find it!
We will search both low and high!
RUTH:    Well … to tell the truth, I ……..
MRS. FISTER:    Hush, now darling, don’t you cry.
MR. FISTER:    Find your cousins – several dozens –
Get your uncles and your aunts
RACHEL:    Bess! Matilda! … Olga! Zelda! … Mary Lee and Uncle Lance!
MR. FISTER:    Uncle Walter! Never falter!
Search the cellar, check the roof.
MRS. FISTER:    Norma Jean and Aunt Bodine
Go check the attic for the tooth.
BESS:    Search the yard and search the garden.
UNCLE LANCE:    Check the engine of the car.
MATILDA:    Check the hat box. Check the cat box.
OLGA:    Look inside the VCR!
ZELDA:    Faster! Harder! Check the larder.
MARY LEE:    Check the pockets of your pants!
AUNT BEA:    Harder! Faster! Quelle disaster!
NARRATOR:    Said Aunt Bea, who’d been to France.
NARRATOR:    Though they searched in ways most ruthless,
After days they still were …

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