P.C.Pop with Pablo

Story Book Leadership – Getting Started – 8 Steps to Powerful Presentations

In Books, Children's Literature, Dr. Seuss, Group Dynamics, Leadership, Literacy Month, Lorax, NEA, Pop Culture, Reading Across America, Story Book Leadership, Theodor Geisel, Uncategorized, Yertle the Turtle on March 15, 2012 at 10:01 am
Story Book Leadership

“Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted.”


Inspired by this Dr. Seuss quote and a class project many years ago, I explored the use of story books in my work in higher education. {Read PCPop blog post: Happy Birthday to You, Theodor Geisel!} I have been teaching LEADERSHIP to college students for close to 25 years and have been using Children’s literature for over Dr. Seuss15 years. When attending retreats, workshops and conferences, adults including college students love to regress. The joy on their faces when you pull out a children’s story book is priceless.  Once they realize you are serious about using a children’s book to teach leadership, students really get into it. After reading the book out loud to the group, I lead a discussion using a tried and true “reflection” outline asking three questions: WHAT? – SO WHAT? – NOW WHAT? The discussion is lively, fun, and meaningful. The insights about leadership the students come up with are incredible. It is magical. (Read the entire story in the PCPop blog post: Story Book Leadership – Teaching College Students Using Kiddie Lit.)

So follow these 8 simple Steps for a successful leadership development teaching experience using Children’s literature.


Story Book Leadership guidelines are as follows:

  1. LEARNING OBJECTIVE – Decide what your learning objective is (see list below).
  2. SELECT A BOOK – Select one or several Children’s Book(s) with a similar message. (Read the PCPop blog post: Story Book Leadership – Book List for suggestions.)
  3. FORMAT – Decide how you will use the Children’s Book.  Some ideas are as follows:
    • Read to large group; lead large group discussion.
    • Split large group up into small groups; have each group read the book and have a small group discussion; have all small groups report back to large group; lead large group discussion.
    • Use the book as the focus or a primary part of the workshop or educational session.
    • Use the book as a small part of a larger retreat or full day conference.
  4. Have at least two copies of the book — one for you to read; the other for showing the pictures to the group.
  5. SETTING – Have the room set up like “story time” in Kindergarten; have an arm chair for the reader and ask the students to sit on the floor around the chair. Be creative and have fun with it — wear a cardigan like Mr. Rogers.
  6. ENGAGEMENT – Recruit a volunteer to show pictures to the group. This is where the extra copies of the book come in handy.
  7. GET STARTED – Sit and Start by doing the following:
    • Show the book — Read the title and the author
    • Explain expectations – ask them to:
      • pay attention
      • listen with leadership in mind
      • be ready to have a lively and meaningful discussion after the book is read to the group
    • Read the book – using a lively, animated voice – taking it seriously though
    • Make sure the volunteer showing the pictures from the story is keeping up
    • Finish – repeat the title and author
    • Begin reflection discussion, using the following questions:
      • What?
        • “someone please give us a plot summary describing the main elements and themes of the story”
      • So What?
        • “why do you think that I chose this book to read to you at this time with your group?”
        • “what lessons do you think I had hoped you would get from this story?”
      • Now What?
        • “now — how can you use this new information learned from this story to make a positive change in your group?”
        • “please give some examples of things you may do or changes you may make based on the lessons learned from this story.”
  8. CLOSING
    • Question — “how did you feel during this exercise?”
    • Give a summary of the comments you heard during the reflection discussion
    • Challenge them to follow up on some of the suggestions made during the “Now What?” part of the discussion.
    • Thank them for playing along and being good sports — and emphasize how you can learn a great deal from Children’s literature.

Some of the LEARNING OBJECTIVES or topics that can be further explored using Story Book Leadership techniques are as following:
  • Brainstorming
  • Budgeting – Financial Responsibility
  • Burnout
  • Communication
  • Co-sponsorship
  • Creativity
  • Diversity – Inclusion
  • Fund-Raising
  • Holidays
  • Individuality
  • Meetings
  • Overcoming Fears
  • Peer/group pressure – Group Think
  • Persistence
  • Power
  • Problem Solving
  • Responsibility
  • Risk Taking
  • Role of Advisor
  • Social Action – Civic Engagement
  • Stress management
  • Team-Building
  • Time management – Prioritizing
Also remember that every group, team or organization goes through developmental stages explained well by Tuckman’s Group Development Model. Story Book Leadership works well in starting a discussion with a group to help the members work through or enhance the “stage” in which they are or are approaching. The Tuckman’s stages, as you will recall, are as follows: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Adjourning.  I particularly enjoy using Story Book Leadership during the Storming and Adjourning stages.

Selecting the perfect book is the next challenge. I encourage you to select one of your favorites from your childhood — your passion for the book will add genuine excitement to your presentation.  I would love it if you also went to your local library and bookstores (locally owned, of course), sat on the floor over the course of a few months, discovering and rediscovering the wonderful world of Children’s literature.  But in case you don’t have time for that level of commitment, a list of some of my favorites can be found in the PCPop blog post: Story Book Leadership – Book List.


Please follow PCPop with Pablo to read the series of blog posts featuring many of the Children’s books (listed in  the PCPop blog post: Story Book Leadership – Book List) starting with one of my favorites, Harold & the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson.


For more information on Story Book Leadership, read the PC Pop posts as follows:


Oh, the places you’ll go! There is fun to be done! You’ll be famous as famous can be, with the whole world watching you on TV. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!

(Dr. Seuss)


FrederickBig Bad BruceHarold & the Purple Crayon

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