Actress brings drama to kids books
TheNili Yelin, The Storybook Mom uses dramatic animation when reading to kids. | Jackie Pilossoph~For Sun-Times Media
Yelin’s three tips for reading to your kids:
1. Pick a story that you love, and a story you won’t get tired of reading. Your passion and love for the story will come through when you’re reading it and you’ll be able to go deeper and embrace the story.
2. Engage the child. Ask questions like, “What do you think he should do?” Let kids ask questions too. It’s okay if they interrupt you.
3. Don’t be self-conscious and don’t worry about how you sound. Acting and being dramatic is good. Let loose, have fun and be silly.
The Storybook Mom
Updated: October 30, 2012 9:48AM
WILMETTE — Nili Yelin was walking down the street last week and a heard a little girl shout, “Look! There’s the story lady!”
“I loved it,” said Yelin, who is The Storybook Mom.
It’s a business she started five years ago, reading and dramatizing picture books to young children.
“My core fan base is 2 to 6 year olds,” said Yelin, an Israeli-born, classically trained actress who graduated from Northwestern University. “I use the words and the pictures of a book and I make the story really come alive, which is so entertaining and exciting for kids.”
The idea for The Storybook Mom was born in 2000 during the actor’s strike, which left Yelin temporarily unemployed.
She heard about a new children’s store in Wilmette that was looking for a storyteller, so she applied for the job and got hired. It was then that she realized her love of reading and entertaining children.
“Kids are the best audience,” said Yelin, a Wilmette resident who has worked as a stand-up comedian, and who has been on the production staff for MTV and Saturday Night Live. “You know immediately if they are engaged and believing you, and they’ll tell you if they’re not interested or if you’re reading too fast, or if they are loving it.”
Liz Weinstein is the manager of Glenview’s The Book Market, where Yelin performs once a month.
“She really gets into the characters of the book,” said Weinstein of Yelin, “She’s animated, and the kids love her.”
The Storybook Mom performs at bookstores, libraries, kid play spaces, festivals and museums. Yelin also does birthday parties and special events, and hosts the Printer’s Row Lit Fest every summer.
Each performance begins with a physical warm up, where Yelin gets the kids stretching and warming up their bodies. Every reading has a different theme, and Yelin said she likes to mix it up.
“I do whacky, crazy, energetic stories, stories without books where I ask the kids for their ideas, and quiet stories,” she said, “I also take the story around Chicago and I pretend I don’t know the city and they have to fill in the blanks for me.”
“Nili’s performance really is art,” said Weinstein, “Her theater background truly shows.”
Yelin charges a base fee of $185 for a 45 minute performance, and her rates go up for larger groups.
“My goal is to make a connection with the kids,” she said. “I had a little girl say to me, ‘You know, I really didn’t want to come here, but now that I did, I don’t want to leave.’ That was the most sincere and direct praise.”