Children’s Books Come Alive Onstage

Children’s Books Come Alive Onstage

By Nicole Kwan
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Since 2003, the Arden Children’s Theatre has received nine #grants through the @Subaru_usa of America Foundation #SubaruLovesLearning #Camden #Philadelphia


A Philadelphia theater brings classic children’s books to life for kids who lack access to arts education.

Monday, January 27, 2020 - 8:30am

CAMPAIGN: Subaru's Love Promise: Education

CONTENT: Article

The lights dim, and for the next hour and 45 minutes, children watch as Charlotte the spider and her barnyard friends save Wilbur the pig. For many of these Philadelphia-area students, the Arden Theatre Company’s production of Charlotte’s Web is their first live theater experience. As participants in Arden for All (AFA), the theater’s arts education program, they’ve read the classic story, but now they’re seeing it come to life onstage.

“It’s a real eye-opener for them,” says Ramona Tribbett, a fourth-grade teacher at Camden, New Jersey’s Alfred Cramer College Preparatory Lab School, which has partnered with AFA since 2012. “With social media, things come and go in nanoseconds. Plays leave a lasting impression.”

Founded in 2005, AFA works with 13 public schools in Philadelphia and Camden that lack the resources for consistent arts programs. The third-, fourth- and fifth-graders who participate – about 2,500 kids in the last school year alone – get a generous haul: two books related to Arden’s Children’s Theatre productions, 10 classroom lessons from Arden’s teaching artists, supplementary lesson plans for classroom teachers, and tickets and transportation to see two plays at Arden’s theater space in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood. The lessons incorporate reading and language arts, but also math, social studies and other Pennsylvania and New Jersey core curriculum standards.

Tribbett watched her students open up after seeing Charlotte’s Web. Kids who’d seemed shy were now excited to play as Fern, the young protagonist, Wilbur the pig and Templeton the rat. In the 2017–2018 school year, 93 percent of participating students improved their literacy skills and 80 percent improved their collaborative skills, according to Arden’s impact assessments.

Since 2003, the Arden Children’s Theatre has received nine grants through the Subaru of America Foundation. “A lot of times, kids need that creative outlet in order to be able to express themselves differently,” says Sandy Capell, corporate responsibility and philanthropy manager at Subaru. “Seeing a play could open up so many opportunities for a child, including excitement for potential careers they didn’t even know existed.”

Tribbett and José Avilés, Arden’s director of education outreach, say they see students becoming more confident in the classroom. “Hopefully, they’ll be able to mimic that in the real world,” Avilés says. “These types of programs develop human beings who will move the world forward into a more positive place.”

In the Community Subaru of America, Inc. supports the communities in which its employees live and work. To that end, the Subaru of America Foundation was established to focus on building community partnerships with organizations that share its drive and passion. Since its start in 1984, more than $10 million has been awarded through grants, scholarships and matching employee contributions. (

CATEGORY: Education