Parents are used to telling and acting out stories for their children, but on Saturday, it was children that got to tell the stories.

Kern County students showed off their storytelling capabilities at the county Oral Language Festival on Saturday at Stonecreek Junior High School. Hundreds of students from fourth through eighth grade were tasked with presenting an interpretation of a literary work in an effort to test their reading comprehension and interpretation skills. The students acted out scenes from their selected work.

Students were given the opportunity to do their presentation separately or as a duo, and were able to choose between humorous or serious interpretations or verse choir. Each student was given up to five minutes for their presentations.

Jefferson Elementary fifth-graders Reymundo Arellano and Rosa Olivos Carmona won first place in the serious interpretation duo category, a surprise for them since this year was their first time participating in the competition.

“I didn’t think we were going to make it,” Arellano said. “I was expecting third or second place at best, but first place! That is an accomplishment.”

The students did their presentation on the book “A Taste of Blackberries,” written by Doris Smith, about a boy and his friend who go blackberry-picking and one of them dies due to an allergic reaction to bee stings. The story focuses on the friend’s reaction to the death.

Arellano said it was a challenge sometimes in getting their presentation right during practice over the course of several months. However, he said it was worth the effort.

“It was a very good experience. My favorite part was that I got to do it with one of the best partners I’ve ever had,” he said, after which he pulled in Olivos for a quick hug.

Both students said they plan to continue participating in the program in upcoming years.

Stockdale Elementary School sixth-graders Jack Merickel and Jonathan Starr took home third-place trophies in the serious interpretation duo category for their presentation of the story “Making Sarah Cry” by Cheryl Costello-Forshey, which focuses on school bullying.

This year’s festival was the third time around for the students, both friends at school.

“It was more fun the third time around, because we’re a little more used to it,” Merickel said. “There was a lot more competition this year. It was a little nerve-wracking at times, but once you get into it, the nerves start to go away.”

Fifth-grader Sean Ryan Sandifer from Bessie Owens Intermediate also participated in the festival. He was involved in a presentation of the book “A Taste of Colored Water” by Matt Faulkner.

The book, set in the 1960s, is about two white children who learn about racism and segregation for the first time when they take the phrase “colored water” literally, expecting a drinking fountain to spurt out colored water.

“I like the innocence of all the characters,” Sandifer said. “It was really fun acting out scenes from the book. I think it’s nice that it has a different perspective on racism.”

Sandifer said that while months of practice got tiresome from time to time, he really enjoys participating in the festival.

“It’s a great learning experience,” he said. “I just wanted to see what it would be like and try to get as high as I could. Next year, I’m shooting to be number one.”

The Oral Language Festival is put on by the Kern County Superintendent of Schools Office. 

Joseph Luiz can be reached at 395-7368 or by email at jluiz@bakersfield.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @JLuiz_TBC. 

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