Creating Children’s Literature-Based Programming

Remember the cozy feeling of cuddling with your mom or dad as they read your favorite bedtime story?

While a television screen isn’t exactly cuddly, children in North Canton, Ohio can find some new story-time favorites to share with Mom and Dad.

Children across the school district watch “The Book Club” on the local cable-access channel. Now in its fourth year of production, “The Book Club” is a cross-curricular program created by Hoover High School students for elementary and pre-school children.


The 30-minute weekly program is the first studio and control room experience for the junior-level Video Productions I class, taught by Mr. Tim McCarty. As the host in front of the camera, I am joined by one of my Broadcast Journalism students. We read two books per show to the visiting in-studio elementary school audience.

What makes the program sparkle is what the viewing audience can see. Prior to taping, students scan every page of each book using Adobe Photoshop CS3 and save these as full-screen TV images. Students also type the entire text of the book and create a two-column production script by combining text and images for the bi-weekly tapings in our television studio facility. The result for the viewing audience is a unique, “up close” view of each book as it is read.

During program tapings, ten Video Production students apply classroom theory in a “real world” television lab by functioning as Technical Director, Avid playback, On-Air Graphics, Teleprompter and Audio Mixer positions in the control room. Inside the studio, three students man the cameras while a fourth works as floor director. Video Production II teacher, Mr. Tom Wilson directs the show.

To avoid copyright infringement in the choice of books we read, I write to each book’s publisher to receive broadcast rights for that book. While this is a very time-consuming process, it is an essential step. The process is as varied as the number of publishers; every company has their own system. When beginning such a program, my advice is to first go to the publisher’s web page and look for a “permissions” link. In all my communication with the publishers I emphasize this is a non-profit educational venture. This process can take several months, so I am planning several months in advance.

Another great aspect of the show is the educational props and guests we tie-in to the literature for that week. For example, when I read Emma’s Turtle by  Eve Bunting, we had two turtles on the set to show the first grade guests. A guest knitter came while we read Jan Brett’s The Mitten. We brought in Polly Pocket dolls to teach proportion when reading When Giants Come to Play by Andrea Beatty. Other guests have included ballerinas, drummers, vocalists, and artists – it is always fun to see the topic of the book in action.

The benefit extends far beyond those in the studio. In addition to the educational growth of our own students, the rest of the community watches the show. All the homes in our school district that subscribe to the local cable service can watch. Entire families can now enjoy stories at home  together – and appreciate the work of North Canton’s Video Productions students as the students learn their craft.

Valeta Drake has been teaching for eight years, and is in her fifth year of teaching Broadcast Journalism at Hoover High School in North Canton, OH, where she also teaches English. She is a graduate of Florida State University and Mount Union College. Along with co-teachers Tom Wilson and Tim McCarty, Drake is a 2006 recipient of Time Warner Cable's Crystal Apple award for their cross-curricular work for "The Book Club." Drake is no stranger to children's literature. She was the librarian for an elementary school for four years, is the mother of three grown children and grandmother of two.