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 Japanese Storytelling Delights Davila Students

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A parent visiting a school to read a story to students isn’t all that unusual. But a recent visitor to Davila Day School isn’t your typical parent reader.

Carol Rubin, a retired teacher and social worker, traveled from Long Island to Chula Vista not only to visit her audiologist daughter, but to share lively Japanese stories with Davila students.

Davila Day School, a San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) campus in Chula Vista, serves children who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Rubin uses kamishibai, which means “paper theater,” a form of visual and participatory storytelling that combines colorful illustrations inserted in a stage box with the lively narration of the presenter.

The Davila students were hooked last week on the story of “Little Chick,” wide-eyed and smiling as Rubin acted out the story of a startled baby chick helped by its mother and a rooster. Then, the children bravely stood up and acted out the story themselves.

“We had some really shy kids come up today,” Davila Day School Coordinator Tina Neal said. “This storytelling draws out confidence in our kids. It’s teaching the kids emotion and expression.”

Rubin used kamishibai in her work for years. “It lends itself beautifully to all the English language arts standards, as well as character education,” she said. “There’s so much meat -- expression, reading for meaning, understanding, receptiveness.”

Rubin first visited Davila last year, soon after her daughter Amy Kalenderian joined the staff. She introduced the students to kamishibai, using an American Sign Language interpreter to help tell the story. On this visit, Rubin had a surprise for the students and staff: She had started taking ASL lessons.

“I was so moved by what my daughter was doing here,” she said. “I was so moved by the interpreters and their expressiveness, and I wanted to visit my daughter, so I’m learning ASL.”

Although Rubin is a standout storyteller, Davila students and teachers don’t have to wait for her next visit for kamishibai stories: Rubin donated a kamishibai story box and several story sets to the school. Each kamishibai story comes with 12 to 16 illustrated story cards, with no words on the front, and Japanese and English translation on the back.

Neal said her students benefit greatly from the storytelling. “It helps with their expressive language. They need that visual,” she said. “Our kids benefit so much from having that exposure through action. … The thing that really drove it home is there’s a moral to the story. We teach them social skills daily, and these stories have that. They learn how to deal with social issues.”


For parents and siblings who, like Rubin, are inspired to learn ASL, Davila Day School offers free ASL classes for its families, taught by instructional aide Maribel Armas. The next session starts Oct. 12.