Once upon a time
Wisconsin Key Clubbers use fairy tales to inspire a love of reading.
By Julie Saetre
Fairy tales really do come true — or, at least, come to life — thanks to members of the Fond du Lac High School Key Club in Wisconsin.
For the past 25 years, the club has hosted a literacy event called Storybook Land. Key Clubbers invite children ages 3 to 10 and parents from their community to visit the school. Once there, the kids form groups and visit five different rooms. At each stop, costumed Key Clubbers enact a different fairy tale vignette. After the final presentation, the young guests choose a book to take home.
Last month, more than 320 children watched as some 40 Key Club members brought to life “Beauty and the Beast,” “Frozen” and other timeless tales, old and new.
“My personal favorite part of Storybook Land is when we’re all crouched behind our backdrop and a new group is entering our room,” says Key Club member Liz Ziegler, “because the children stare at us behind the backdrop with awe, and we all talk about how cute the kids are while preparing for the next show.”
Adds fellow Key Clubber Hannah Joslin: “The most rewarding part of Storybook Land is seeing the children’s reaction to the stories. Hearing their giggles and claps once the story is all over makes you realize that putting on a costume and saying a few lines from a story has much more of an impact on these kids than you might have thought beforehand.”
Club members don’t take their responsibilities lightly. Prior to each year’s event, they practice their lines and try on costumes, says club advisor Chris Stelmacher, as well as promote the event through local businesses, schools, day care facilities — even a radio spot.
“They also fundraise (by selling candy bars) to buy all the children’s books for both Storybook Land and for the Reading Mother Program, another program for which the Key Club buys a book for every child born at the local hospital.”
In all, Key Clubbers purchase about 1,500 books to give away.
“The hours it takes to put this on is worth the effort, as seen by the children’s faces and excitement,” Stelmacher says.
Club members hope that enthusiasm carries on as a love of reading.
“Knowing that you can get them to think about reading as fun and adventurous makes acting out a story for them all the more fun,” says Joslin.
Adds Ziegler: “Since reading is not as prominent now in society, it’s so important to put on events like this and to make the children want to read.”