Kamishibai, a Storytelling Form for the Digital Age

By Avery Fischer Udagawa, Bangkok

Kids distracted? You might try kamishibai.

Last month at the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) 3rd Asia Oceania Regional Congress in Bangkok, I co-presented on kamishibai with Etsuko Nozaka, a founding member of the International Kamishibai Association of Japan (IKAJA). The best part was watching Nozaka-san captivate the audience.

Etsuko Nozaka (right) performs the kamishibai Grow, Grow, Grow Bigger by Noriko Matsui.

Kamishibai (“paper theater”) involves presenting a story by sliding a series of cardstock sheets into and out of a small stage. The text of the story is printed on back of the sheets.

The sliding motions, bold illustrations, and shape of the stage elicit such strong concentration that Nozaka-san has seen her cat focus on a kamishibai story.

The publishing house Doshinsha has a video of toddlers focusing on kamishibai as well.

Video source: www.doshinsha.co.jp/product/kamishibai.php

The IBBY Regional Congress was themed “Children’s Books in the Digital Age” and featured sessions on promoting literacy in an era of screens and fast-paced entertainment. Kamishibai seems tailored to imparting story schema and nurturing focus, even amid distractions. It also elicits a strong sense of shared feeling, or kyokan, as a group enjoys a story together. (This can be difficult to achieve when reading a picture book to a large group.)

For those who wish to try kamishibai, the Doshinsha kamishibai page lists titles available for order in English and French, as well as the regulation kamishibai stage (butai). The IKAJA Kamishibai Newsletter, which I help translate, offers information about performance techniques, suggested works, and kamishibai activities in different countries. The digital newsletter can be accessed by all IKAJA members, and membership is dues-free. For details, contact: kamishibai@ybb.ne.jp 

In closing, here is a blog post about the kamishibai workshop in Bangkok, written by a participant who tried kamishibai for the first time that day:

Using Storytelling to Engage by Sara Khamkoed

Many thanks to ThaiBBY Secretary General Pornanong Niyomka Horikawa (below left), Etsuko Nozaka (below right), JBBY, IKAJA, and all who explored kamishibai with us in Bangkok!

Kamishibai workshop, 3rd Asia Oceania Regional IBBY Congress, May 2017. Photos courtesy Etsuko Nozaka.

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