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A “Central Text” in New York State’s Common Core Curriculum!

Readers on Stage

Resources for Reader’s Theater (or Readers Theatre), With Tips, Scripts, and Worksheets


How to Use Simple Children’s Plays to Build Reading Fluency and Love of Literature

Book cover

By Aaron Shepard

Want to try reader’s theater but don’t know where to start? Or have you tried it but want to find ways to bring it more to life? Or are you just looking for a fun, easy way to lure young people into reading fluency, cooperative effort, effective communication, and love of literature?

Readers on Stage is a collection of resources for scripting, directing, and teaching reader’s theater, primarily to ages 8 and up. Part 1 offers three sample scripts to learn from and enjoy. Part 2 highlights each major aspect of reader’s theater—scripting, staging, and dramatic reading—offering tips and tricks you’re not likely to find elsewhere. For instance, you’ll learn how young readers can easily create their own scripts!

Part 3 provides all the plans, notes, handouts, and worksheets from actual reader’s theater workshops, ready for copying. Use them to start with reader’s theater tomorrow in a classroom or library, or to lead your own workshop for adults. Finally, Part 4 gives listings of additional resources.

Whether you’re working with young readers, training teachers, or directing a professional company, you’ll want this unique, detailed guide.

Aaron Shepard is the award-winning author of numerous children’s books and magazine stories, as well as three books on reader’s theater, Stories on Stage, Folktales on Stage, and Readers on Stage. He spent five years as a professional actor in reader’s theater, performing in schools and conducting workshops for teachers, librarians, and students. He now hosts Aaron Shepard’s RT Page, the Web’s most popular reader’s theater destination, with visits from thousands of teachers and librarians each week.

Shepard Publications
Paperback ~ 2004
Ebook ~ 2017

The following links may earn commissions for this site.


“At last! If you’ve been looking for a complete resource for teaching and using readers theatre, look no further. From scripts, to implementation strategies, to materials for workshops, Readers on Stage has it all. Aaron Shepard draws upon decades of work to provide a practical, well-organized, and reader-friendly book. Don’t miss it!”—Dr. Suzanne Barchers, author, Readers Theatre for Beginning Readers, and publisher, Storycart Press

“Aaron Shepard skillfully envelops us in the wonderful world of readers theatre. His new book melds the how‑to-do‑it with engaging, entertaining scripts. This is a welcome contribution to the field.”—Dr. Shirlee Sloyer, professor, Hofstra University, and author, From the Page to the Stage

“For more than a decade, Aaron Shepard has been recognized nationally as an innovative, skilled, highly successful practitioner of readers theatre with emphasis on support of literature and reading, especially for teachers at elementary and middle-school levels. His latest book gives concise, clear, and practical tips for scriptmaking and staging, along with useful scripts and work materials.”—Dr. William Adams, Director, Institute for Readers Theatre

Readers on Stage solves the instructor’s problem of how to cover all aspects of readers’ theater for the drama student. Even a person experienced in theater has much to learn from Aaron Shepard’s insightful book.”—Dr. Rebecca Saunders, Professor of Drama, Lesley University

“Aaron Shepard has written a breezy, easy guide to help any teacher begin exploring the exciting and imaginative worlds of readers theatre. Every element needed for getting started is here: philosophies, methodologies, helpful tips, and sample scripts. What are the benefits? A child’s widened understanding of good stories, enhanced imaginative response, heightened spatial awareness, increased cooperation, and greater love of literature can all result from the program presented in this generous book. Highly recommended!”—James Floss, lecturer, Communication Department, Humboldt State University

Readers on Stage is an outstanding resource for teachers. It is arranged so sensibly and cohesively that I cannot imagine anyone who uses it having a problem teaching the intricacies of reader’s theater.”—Susan Finney, author, Keep the Rest of the Class Reading and Writing While You Teach Small Groups

“Aaron Shepard does it again! . . . In Shepard’s familiar lighthearted style, Readers On Stage distills the world of RT into a highly readable manual for educators and instructors at all levels of the K–12 spectrum. Community theatre folks who take the time to peruse the pages will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of RT as theatre.”—R. Demers, Readers Theatre Digest, Fall 2004

“Teachers, recreation leaders, and librarians will find Shepard’s newest book on Readers Theatre just as useful (and fun!) as his previous books. Even people inexperienced in drama or theatre can lead a group of kids in a Readers Theatre project, bringing stories to life and encouraging reading. . . . Show this book to reading teachers, who may be inspired to use it with their students!”—BayNews, Dec. 2004


Getting Started

What Is RT? (And How Do You Really Spell It?)

About This Book

About the Web Site

Part 1 ~ RT Scripts

The Legend of Lightning Larry

Peddler Polly and the Story Stealer

The Baker’s Dozen

Part 2 ~ RT Tips

Tips on Scripting

Script Roles

Cuts and Changes


Script Format

Team Scripting

Tips on Staging


Script Handling

The Set

Reader Movement

Mime and Sound Effects


Beginnings and Endings

Tips on Reading




Part 3 ~ An RT Workshop

Sample Materials List

Sample Outlines

Notes and Handouts

Scripting Worksheets

Part 4 ~ Other Resources

Books and Articles

Online Resources

Sample Text

Getting Started

What Is RT? (And How Do You Really Spell It?)

Reader’s theater is minimal theater in support of literature and reading. There are many styles of reader’s theater, but nearly all share these features:

  • Narration serves as the framework of dramatic presentation.
  • No full stage sets. If used at all, sets are simple and suggestive.
  • No full costumes. If used at all, costumes are partial and suggestive, or neutral and uniform.
  • No full memorization. Scripts are used openly in performance.

Reader’s theater was developed as an efficient and effective way to present literature in dramatic form. Today as well, most scripts are literary adaptations, though others are original dramatic works.

Popular first in colleges and universities, reader’s theater has now moved to earlier education, where it is seen as a key tool for creating interest and skill in reading. Young people love to do it, and they give it their all—more so because it’s a team effort, and they don’t want to let down their friends! Repeated readings bring fluency, and if a script is based on an available book, kids want to read that too. What’s more, reader’s theater is a relatively simple activity for the teacher, with no required setup other than making copies of scripts.

Reader’s theater has been found effective not only for language arts but for social studies as well. Performing stories based on another culture is one of the best ways for students to become interested in and familiar with that culture.

As to how to spell it, there’s no one right way, so take your pick! All the following have been used:

  • reader’s theater
  • readers’ theater
  • readers theater
  • reader’s theatre
  • readers’ theatre
  • readers theatre

That’s why it’s sometimes easier to call it RT!

About This Book

Readers on Stage is a collection of resources for scripting, directing, and teaching reader’s theater, primarily to ages 8 or 9 and up. It draws on my five years of professional experience in reader’s theater as a performer and a director, as well as many more years of scripting, leading workshops, and hosting the most popular reader’s theater destination on the Web.

Part 1 offers three sample scripts to learn from and enjoy. Part 2 provides detailed tips on scripting, staging, and dramatic reading. Part 3 supplies everything else you need to start with reader’s theater in the classroom or library or to conduct your own reader’s theater workshop for adults. And Part 4 gives listings of additional resources. All materials may be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose (except some may not be posted online without permission, as noted).

About the Web Site

For updates, many more scripts, and other resources, please visit Aaron Shepard’s RT Page at www.aaronshep.com/rt. And while you’re visiting, be sure to sign up for my email bulletin. There’s always more to come!

| About Aaron’s RT Books | | Aaron’s RT Page | | Aaron’s Home Page |
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