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Every now and then, Booked Out is lucky enough to work with a fantastic school who are keen to put in the hard yards to bring a international visitor to their school – in this case, the International School of Phnom Penh were extremely lucky to welcome the brilliant and dynamic Bernard Caleo. Below is an account of the visit from both Bernard and the wonderful teachers who organised the visit, Ann and Sally.
In the first week of February 2016, I taught kamishibai and comics classes at the International School of Phnom Penh. This incredible opportunity came about because one of the school’s librarians, Sally Bray, an Australian, had worked with Booked Out in bringing authors into schools when she had taught in Australia. And so I found myself as the ‘visiting author’ during the ISPP’s Book Week celebrations, which also included a book character costume parade, a school-wide ‘Where’s Wally’ competition, ‘Drop Everything and Read’ announcements (I loved these), Monument Books the Phnom Penh bookshop setting up shop in the new still-being-built library, a candlelight read-aloud night, and a poetry day. It was a great delight to be amongst such motivated staff and students, for whom books, literacy, reading and writing are a vital part of school life. With the primary students I told kamishibai (Japanese ‘paper theatre’) stories – it was a thrill to have Japanese students in the audience correcting my pronunciations and translations – and led kamishibai workshops, with each ‘buddy’ student duo writing and drawing and showing their own story. With year 8 students I led comics workshops, in preparation for them making comics adaptations of their own stories later this year.
It was a stimulating, hilarious, intense and engaging week, and I would like to thank in particular Hannah French from Booked Out and Ann Coster from the International School of Phnom Penh for making the whole experience so well-run and enjoyable. And the students at ISPP, who leapt into making comics and kamishibai with such enthusiasm and energy.
During the first week of this month, here at ISPP (the International School of Phnom Penh), we celebrated “Book Week.” It was five days devoted to books and literacy. The hands-down highlight of the week was the participation of visiting author/illustrator Bernard Caleo!
For our Elementary students, Bernard introduced the world of Kamishibai, a form of Japanese storytelling. But Bernard did not just tell Kamishibai stories. Bernard performed the stories, gave life to the stories and inspired our students to try to imitate his passion for stories. His efforts were most effective because he used Kamishibai as the means for the students to understand the intricacies of this Japanese art form. It was through Bernard’s Kamishibai stories that we learned of the history of this ‘paper theater’ in Japan beginning in the 1930’s. Bernard’s energy and enthusiasm, to present stories and to observe stories created by our students, was limitless. He was a crowd favorite for all ages and well appreciated by our teachers for the clear way he could communicate how a Kamishibai story works.
For our Secondary students, Bernard brought his talents as a graphic novelist and web comic creator. He led workshops with the Grade 8 students, introducing the ideas and skills involved in creating and developing graphic novels and mini-comics, giving a genuine view of the nuts-and-bolts of being an author. The Grade 8 students will begin studying Graphic novels, their history, format and literary style in the next few weeks and Bernard’s insights will form a great foundation for these studies. Bernard also offered two extra sessions for other students who were interested, called “How and why create mini-comics”, discussing the development of cartoons, to comic strips, to comic books and finally graphic novels. His presentation of Kamishibai to the Secondary students during an extended assembly showed his skill with diverse age ranges and larger audiences. Bernard’s artistic skills, animated presentations and enthusiasm for his subject were well received by the students and teachers.
We so appreciate all you did to help bring Bernard to ISPP! We have been hearing nothing but praise and appreciation for the positive energy Bernard showed to our students, helping to make our Book Week a complete pro-literacy highpoint of our year!
Ann Coster Sally Bray
Elementary Librarian Secondary Librarian
Thank you again to Bernard, Ann and Sally for sharing this experience with us!