Masked Storytelling and Little Books

At my son’s preschool Monday I helped to lead activities for the day. My partner and I set up two prepared art/creative projects for the kids, 1) making masks we designed and 2) creating one-piece-of-paper books. My partner lead the children in their mask creation and I managed the book building.

To set up the masks my partner and I split the character list in Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears by Verna Aardema pictures by Leo and Diane Dillon. We then created simple designs that a 3 – 4 year old could build in under an hour. Given that the characters are shape based I chose to cut out brightly colored simple shapes similar to the illustrators’ drawings. I created a sample mask of each kit, then prepared 2 kits for each character all contained in one baggie to be doled out by my partner.



It was such an enjoyable experience to build simple masks from the beautiful designs of Leo and Diane Dillon, I kept going and made a few of the background characters in the book. These were used as extras for parents in the room and children who did not choose to make a mask.


My favorite moment with these extras came at the end of the reading. The little red bird is not a speaking character in the book. The boy who received this mask during story time questioned where his character was. This little red bird is actually on every page of the book. I consider him a secret character that helps us as readers go through the story. Given my audience I hadn’t planned to mention this; it gave me so much pleasure to have this question. Because of it, I was able to share with these children a in plain site secret most illustrators use. The underlying character or background story that can be searched for in every book they read.

Our second project, a one-piece-of-paper book, I led. This required minimal set up but, more devotion and interest from the kids. The last time I did this project was with 10 – 14 year olds. It was totally unclear to me as to how it would be appreciated by 3 – 4 year olds. The answer was outstandingly well. My table stayed busy for the whole hour with some children returning multiple times to make books for additional family members.

To make this project attainable to these kids I gave them tools that I felt would best help them approach the paper without being overwhelmed. Crayons, markers, and stickers and two options for a book, a very simple fairy tale, the Three Little Pigs/Los Tres Cerditos and a blank page. I would have included magazines for cutting out pictures but, with time restrictions and mess factor with glue, I decided to leave them out. However, with more time, they would have been great.

Now I’m sure some of you are curious about how to make a one-piece-of-paper book. Here is a step by step:

Step 1: Get a sheet of paper and draw a line to 3/4’s down the middle of the page or fold the page into fourths by folding the paper in half then each half in half making a “W” with the paper.



Step 2: Cut down the line or to the last fold in the paper. If you have no preprinted words you can start a either end. If you have preprinted words and are going by the folds, be sure to cut from the end with page one.

paper-pants  paper-pants2

Step 3: Make the last fold by folding the paper in half on the last fourth that is still connected. Making the paper look like frog legs.


Step 4: Your book should now easily fold in on itself on either side of the last fold making a tiny book.



Step 5: Create your book making a cover and interior images and text, if no text was previously applied.


I had many favorite moments while sitting with the kids as they made their books. One was enjoyed with amazement at a 4 year old who completely understood the  project and made a book! She drew a cover then wrote words, as best as she can write words, throughout each page. I had not at all expected to see this happen. Then a boy, whom I have not been able to draw out of his shell before, came back to the table again and again to make more books. These experiences as well as all of my time spent with this group making books was very special. I’m so happy to have had the chance to do this.

2 thoughts on “Masked Storytelling and Little Books

  1. I love your masks! My kinders are performing this book in May and I always go crazy getting costumes ready. I wanted the kids to do it this year and this is perfect. These are so colorful and because the kinders made them, it will be so much more meaningful.

    • wow Thank you 🙂 I’m so excited to know the idea will be carried on and used in such circumstances. Share pictures if you can would love to see how their masks come out. Best of luck on the project.

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