Sunday, June 19, 2022

PBT Techniques #11: Object Play

The PBT Techniques series explores unusual ways to use picture books in ministry. If you want to see more of these PBT posts, there are quick links at the end of the post. Also, I mention the work of 2 other authors you should know about: Leanne Hadley and Diane Alber!

Today’s book is excellent, but for a group read aloud it is a bit wordy. Also, the illustration details are many. Some wordplay and geological puns will be beyond the understanding of most elementary-aged children. Instead of reading it aloud, use this book as inspiration for a story you tell with easily found objects.
Whenever a picture book inspires you to tell a story, always say the author's name. When the illustrations are pivotal to the story, as in this book, give the illustrator credit as well. These are not just good ideas; they are ethical practices!

Picture Book: Ricky, the Rock That Couldn’t Roll

Author: Mr. Jay (aka Jason Miletsky)

Illustrator: Erin Wozniak

Summary: This story is about a group of rocks and pebbles who are great friends. They repeatedly race to the top of a hill to enjoy the view and then joyfully roll down, in great communion with the ritual in nature and joy of each other's company

Many of the rocks have clever names, and their play is silly and creative. However, Ricky, who is a bystander of the group, was not able to roll. Watching was all he could do because of his flat bottom. His friends, like the friends in Mark 2 who creatively drop a peer through the roof to Jesus, are determined to help. Unlike the biblical story,  many of the rocks' initial ideas are disastrous!

When it starts to rain, Ricky's friends have an idea. They carry Ricky down to the mud and help him make himself round. Finally, Ricky is able to roll and fully enjoy the play and his loving friends. Now they are a better community because Ricky is able to participate!

Hanna’s Comments: If only all Christian communities were so determined to accommodate and include! This story has much potential for discussion and application to loving practices at church and at a school! For the object play, simply collect a variety of rocks and pebbles. Then tell the story your own way. You will need to simplify the story a lot! You'll likely want to use brown modelling clay or dough for mud. Don't feel like you must provide a prop for the hill. Be imaginative with your movements. The children will get it. If you want a hill, use a pillow or cushion and a green pillow case or thin towel. You might want to gather more flat rocks so that all your children can hold and re-create their own versions of Ricky. 

If you tend to think metaphorically, as I do, you'll realize that this story has a great deal of depth if we consider mud as a metaphor for difficulty, struggle, or even the terrible hardships that may lead to resilience. It can even be a metaphor for sin which could lead to ironic connections to baptism. This simple story would be an excellent children's sermon because it has that potential for depth and application to all ages!

Stones, like picture books, have great potential for ministry! My friend Leanne Hadley, an ordained pastor, has designed a beautiful tool for helping children be open and vulnerable in their verbal sharing, especially in times of stress, grief, and crisis. Check out all her work HERE.    OR 

her short YouTube video demonstrating this tool: Holy Listening Stones  

Additionally, there are several other great picture books about stones by Diane Alber. She explores important social-emotional skills in these. She even has some books about scribbles - another easy possibility for object play.  Check them out as well HERE.

Original Publisher: Lyric & Stone, 2018

Age Appropriateness: 7 and up

Formats other than Book: None at present

Scripture Connections: Friends drop a paralyzed man through the roof to be healed by Jesus (Mark 2: 1-12); Jesus uses mud to heal a blind man. (John 9:1-7) 

Connections to The Revised Common Lectionary: In my Trinity Treasures curriculum, I have based a preschool Sunday school lesson on this relatable Bible story for Year B, on the 7th Sunday of Epiphany when Mark 2:1-12 is listed.  

PBT Applications: As described above, to better keep children's attention, tell this story using objects. Simplify the story and tie it to Mark 2 by connecting the actions and motivations of the friends in both stories. I once heard a sermon about those friends. The speaker argued they must have been adolescents because of their audacity and determination to push through a boundary! I always think of those biblical characters in that way. After telling the story, you may want to use 5 stones to tell that Bible story. OR Have your children act it out. Unless you're telling the story in a children's sermon, consider ending the lesson with some dancing to "rock & roll!"

Links to other posts about PBT Techniques: 

#4 Using the Whole Story

#5 Using Poetry in Ministry

If you are interested in learning more about my Trinity Treasures, a scripture based preschool Sunday school curriculum that features picture books & children’s Bibles, contact me at hannaschock@bellsouth.netRight now, free lessons are emailed if you agree to fill out the monthly feedback form.

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