Everyone, young and old, loves to hear a good story read aloud. Reading aloud together is an opportunity to connect – with the ideas in the story and with each other.
This guide offers ideas for doing an engaging intergenerational reading of Dream between an older adult and children about age 8-14 years. For younger children check out How to Make Storytime a Dream. For older teens, you can adapt ideas in this guide (omitting, for example, the group whoosh).
An intergenerational reading can be as simple as a grand-parent cuddling up with a grandchild to share a story. Or, a school can invite in an older adult to do a reading to a group. Seniors residences can also have children visit to share a story and activities. A reading can be part of a Grandparents Day event or a
One City, One Book multigenerational program.
Here are some tips
for doing an intergenerational reading that involves a whole group. There's also a video you can watch of author
Susan V. Bosak doing an interactive group reading.
Get to Know the Story
The picture book format is an art form for all ages. The words and pictures enhance each other. The text in Dream is poetic and accessible for children, but has deeper meanings for adults. The illustrations are examples of the best art, in a variety of styles and mediums. The book offers something different to readers of different ages.
Dream has four interrelated layers: 1) the story text, based on social science life course research; 2) the illustrations, each done in a style specially selected for a given life stage (for more information, see Secrets of the Artists); 3) historical quotations carefully chosen as "echoes across time"; and 4) a series of digital images that tell a story within the story and serve as the colored page backgrounds (each life stage is associated with a different color).
Dream is narrated by a wise old star, an elder grandparent/mentor figure. It's the unseen star who asks the question on the title page, "What's your dream?"; the star is hinted at in the yellow page background under the text "I started out just like you" on page 5; and the star is fully revealed on page 28.
The story is introduced on the title page as a traveler wandering a barren desert finds the Dream Chest at the end of the rainbow. The Dream Chest is a magical portal between "what is" and "what can be." As the traveler opens the chest, the old star emerges to take the traveler – and the reader – through a colorful journey of a lifetime.
The star guides the reader through the story. The refrain of "Dream a dream with me" is the star serving as a mentor, helping the reader learn about and understand life until, at the very end, the star, having fulfilled its role, turns it over to the reader with "dream a dream... your very own dream."
The story begins where we all begin: as a baby who must learn everything there is to learn. As a toddler, we explore the world around us. As a child, we explore the world of the imagination. Then you become a teenager, with all the questions and choices.
As a young adult, you start making your way up the mountain of life. At this point (pages 14-19), the story opens up to everything that has come before you, everything on which your dreams are built: great people from throughout history; great ideas that have changed the world and how we live; and the value of culture and learning.
Then the story returns to the level of the individual and the gray pages: overcoming the inevitable obstacles that come up as you go through life. Finally, on the green pages, the star reveals the secret to growing a dream: "You need the Believe of childhood, the Do of youth, and the Think of experience." You need all three parts of yourself, and the world needs all generations to work together.
As the story comes full circle and returns to the color yellow, the old star accepts life as it has been lived, then wishes to give something to "those who follow" – the gift of hope, of dreams. That's the very best legacy we can all leave.
The ultimate message of Dream is you're never too young or too old to dream. Everyone needs to dream. And we can use those dreams to make ourselves, our community, and our world better. Hope can overcome fear. It's the Dreamers who have the courage and creativity to try new things, overcome obstacles, and make a difference.
Older Adult: Practice Reading the Story
If you're an older adult and will be the main reader for the story, make sure you practice ahead of time. Read the story aloud to yourself a few times to become familiar and comfortable with it.
Try reading in front of a mirror to see how you should stand, hold the book, and which gestures and facial expressions you might want to introduce.
When you read aloud, be dramatic. You need a strong start to capture attention. Then, as you go through the story, vary the volume, tone, and pace of your voice. Make the reading as interesting, heartfelt, and dramatic as possible. Above all – enjoy yourself! There's no "right way" or "wrong way" to do a reading. Each person brings their own style to a reading – and that's what makes it interesting. Also keep in mind that simply being read to is a treat your audience will enjoy. You don't have to be perfect.
If you're reading to a group, hold up the pages in the book or hand out copies of Dream for listeners to look at while you're reading. The beautiful artwork in Dream draws listeners into the story. The illustration slides also enable you to display the illustrations on a computer or large screen.
Children: Practice Reading the Quotes
The historical quotations at the bottom of each page in Dream are intended as "echoes across time." They are people through history adding their voice to the voice of the old star. We live in community, with ideas that came before us helping to shape our own ideas. We can build on what has come before us.
If there's a group of children participating in the reading, preassign selected children one quotation each. Have them practice their quotation. Help them understand what it means, and to practice reading it aloud with a strong voice and feeling.
During the real reading, when the older adult reader puts their hand to their ear, that will be the signal for the child with that quotation to stand up and read the quotation aloud to the group. In this way, both young and old share in reading the story.
Note that the young person should read both the text of the quotation and the source of the quotation, since the source provides the historical context.
Introduce the Concept
Dream is about hopes and dreams. It's about the special and important wishes you can make on the stars in the night sky, wishes for yourself and for your community.
When young and old gather together to share the story, the older person can start by asking children what they would like to be or do when they grow up. You may want to talk about what you wanted to be when you were their age, and some of your dreams/goals now. You're never too young or too old to dream!
Introduce the Wise Old Star
Particularly in a group setting, children may not be able to see the subtle star hidden in the yellow background on page 5. So, introduce them to the narrator.
Open the book to page 28 and show the full star illustration: "Dream is a story told by a wise old star. The old star is like a grandparent or mentor you listen to and trust."
Ask children about some of the oldest people they know.
Explain that when everyone participates, a reading is more fun. Say that you need some help to make the story special and dramatic.
"The wise old star is going to take us on a whirlwind journey of a lifetime. Whoosh and we start with a baby. Then whoosh and we're suddenly a teenager. Then whoosh again and we're all grown up. When it's time to turn a page and I move my arm like this (sweep your arm in front of you through the air), I want everyone to make a BIG whoosh sound with me. Let's practice."
Practice the arm motion and have the whole group try the whoosh together a couple of times. The verbal whoosh takes a visual element on the printed page (the swoosh of stars that moves from page to page in the background) and makes it an oral element for a read-aloud.
The whoosh signifies a movement through time – which, in general, occurs with every turn of the page in Dream (i.e. baby goes to toddler and then to child, etc.). You can do the whoosh with every page turn. Or, if you want to be really precise, you can omit the whoosh when the color on the page stays the same and there is no big movement through time (i.e. gray to gray, green to green).
Read the Story
Open the book to the title page: "The first part of the story is told in this picture, without words. Dream begins at the end of the rainbow with the Dream Chest, a magical portal between 'what is' and 'what can be.' A traveler wandering the desert finds the Dream Chest and opens it. Out from the chest comes a wise old star who asks, 'What's your dream?'"
Then begin reading the story text on the yellow spread on pages 4-5. "I started out just like you..."
Once you finish the story, you can expand the discussion beyond dreams for yourself to dreams for the community and how everyone in the group might work together to make those dreams happen.
Mention that each illustrator has hidden a star in their illustration so that readers of all ages can hunt for and make a new wish with each star they find. The back of the book (pages 32-33) describes the locations of the stars.
After the reading of Dream, you can do an activity together, like making Dream Stars or creating The Next Page in the book. An activity helps create a special memory, prompts discussion, and reinforces the themes.
Never underestimate the very special connection between young and old when they read together. Here's a note from 8-year-old Corey Herr of Pennsylvania:
"My grandmother bought me the Dream book for Christmas. We read it together Christmas night after the house was quiet. She wanted to tell me about the dreams she had for me when I grew up. She asked me about the colors in the book and we discussed what we both thought they meant. I think I am a purple and Grandma said she was a yellow. We talked about great ideas – the impossible made possible. She told me about the great inventions she has seen made in her life, that she didn't have TV or computers when she was little and what inventions I may see when I'm older. Before we talked I didn't think impossible made possible made sense. Now I get it."
Older adults have much to offer children; they can help children "get it" – whether you're talking about a simple story, or the not-so-simple lifetime ahead of them.
View the video below to see author Susan V. Bosak doing an interactive group reading of Dream.