One of CDE’s most provocative programs is its “Books Alive!” project, a proven arts-based program that strengthens the connections between arts and academics in classrooms. The program brings books to life, stars science and other subjects on stage, and illuminates the study of history through theater, dance, music and visual art. It even teaches spelling through dance with the “Spelling Dance Warm-up.” Classes are modular and integrate core-curricula at the request of the involved school or teacher.
By providing a theater integration unit of study, the primary program goals are to enhance the core- curriculum while developing arts proficiency and to improve academic achievement through an artistic and engaging pedagogy. During the program, students read a book or short story together and then engage with the text through art, theater, and dance. CDE works with teachers to choose books and/or academic themes to explore and to eventually perform for parent and community audiences. Depending on the grade level, students may paint pictures of a scene in the book, create an epilogue to the story and perform it in a skit, or analyze the character feelings and emotions through dance.
The “Books Alive!” program also provides youth with literacy and reading comprehension capabilities, along with conflict resolution techniques through the auspices of theatrical conventions. With a core social justice component training them to process anger, students read a book or short story in a group setting, then engage with the text through art, theater, and dance. This component has students paint pictures of a scene in the book, create an epilogue to the story and either perform it in a skit, or analyze the characters’ feelings and emotions through dance and movement. The “Books Alive!” program engages both the Illinois Learning Standards and Social Emotional Learning Standards to establish and assess measurable outcomes.