Children love to see storybook characters come to life onstage.

But in recent years the arts have been increasingly eliminated from school curricula and family life. To address this issue and introduce youngsters to the performing arts, State Theatre New Jersey created the Early Childhood Arts & Literacy Program.

The Early Childhood Arts & Literacy Program uses performance as a tool for developing reading skills in kids aged five and under, providing early arts exposure that underserved youngsters would be unlikely to experience otherwise.

STNJ presents a performance featuring literary adaptations of beloved children’s tales for local pre-K and kindergarten students. We also provide each classroom with the books on which these delightful performances are based, all free of charge. The program was built upon and inspired by research showing that engaging young children with lively, colorful stories boosts comprehension, vocabulary, and interest.

First launched in 2016, the Early Childhood Arts & Literacy Program has featured such favorites as Guess How Much I Love You, The Gruffalo, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Rainbow Fish, The Man Who Planted Trees, and Lilah Tov by Latin Grammy® Award-winning artist, author, activist, and educator Mister G. The program serves local pre-K and kindergarten students, including students from local Puerto Rican Action Board (PRAB) and National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) preschools.

2023 Program Performances

In 2023, State Theatre's featured Early Childhood Arts & Literacy Program performance is Harold & The Purple Crayon. Using nothing more than a big purple crayon and a boundless imagination, young Harold creates his own fascinating worlds to explore. In his wild adventures, Harold jets off to Mars, joins a circus, and meets a princess in an enchanted garden! On March 16th, Enchantment Theatre brings the classic book series by author-illustrator Crockett Johnson vividly to life onstage with life-size puppets, masks, magic, music, and dazzling stage effects.

The Early Childhood Arts & Literacy program is supported in part by NJM Insurance Group and PNC Bank.