Benefits of Kamishibai

It’s so easy to use

One of the main reasons I started making kamishibai is because I couldn’t find any available here in the UK. But why did I go to such lengths and start making them?

It’s such a simple format. Large pages which are not bound together like a book. The children have a clear view of the illustrations. The text of the story is on the back of the pages facing the reader. This makes it super easy to read the story and show the illustrations at the same time. The reader doesn’t have to crane their neck or read upside down! The reader also has a small copy of the illustration the children can see and some questions which can be used to extend the learning from the story.

Two pages from the gingerbread man. One showing the illustration of the fox and the gingerbread man, the other showing the back of the page with the story, small illustration and story prompts

Added bonus

Traditionally, in Japan a wooden frame is used when performing kamishibai stories. I have created a simple frame which can be used with my kamishibai stories. Using the frame to hold the kamishibai opens up so many possibilities for the reader. You slide the pages into the frame and it holds them leaving your hands free. What does this mean? For anyone who uses sign language it’s a game changer. Of course you have to turn the page but otherwise your hands are free to use sign language. Perhaps you like to use props or musical instrument. Maybe you like to dramatise a story, just like the original kamishibai storytellers. Using the frame with your kamishibai means you can do any of these things and more.

Wendy is holding the little old man and the little old woman props. She is about to turn the page of the kamishibai which is in a wooden frame sitting on a table with a crochet fox


What does it mean?

Kamishibai translates as kami- paper shibai - theatre, paper theatre. I think paper theatre sounds a lot more exciting than book!

You can create magical theatrical storytime performances that children will remember and want to experience again and again.

Two boys are reading the gingerbread man kamishibai, which is in a wooden frame on the floor, to a younger girl

How do you say it?

I will break it down phonetically. Kah - me - she - bye. Then blend Kahme and shebye and that’s it! Kamishibai, simple. (I know it’s not that simple, it’s one of the most googled things about kamishibai!)

More benefits

I write all the stories featured in my kamishibai. I have written them using rhyme and repetition. The repetitive and predictable patterns occurring throughout the story allows the storyteller to involve the audience in the telling of the story, as they already know, or can anticipate, what will happen next.

Kamishibai tells stories through dramatic images that allow children to follow along, even if they are unable to catch all the spoken phrases.  The phrases become reinforced in listeners’ minds by being associated with the images, so it becomes easier for children not only to remember the words, but to use them in meaningful context. 

Speaking and listening skills underpin all learning and are the start of all other literacy skills.  Having no text visible to the children does not mean that they will not be learning valuable pre reading and pre writing skills. 

A mother and son read the gingerbread man kamishibai story. The mum holds the pages and the little boy is pointing to the hare.

Kamishibai can be used to teach the writing process. Drawing, telling and revising are part of the prewriting process.  Telling a story orally before committing it to paper helps to cement the understanding of the process, ensuring the story has a beginning, middle and end, and that it follows a logical sequence.  Sequencing can be emphasised by exercises where the children work together to create a sequence familiar to them, getting ready to come to nursery or school, brushing your teeth.  What happens when part of the sequence is omitted or is not in order?  Forgetting to take the cap off the toothpaste, not changing out of pyjamas and into school uniform. Sequencing is an important life skill to master and storytelling helps emphasise the process.

A childs drawing of the gingerbread man.