Reading books is not only a great way to pass the time at home, it’s also central to learning. Locals are trying to read stories for children at home on online platforms.
Former story time lady at the Hardin County Public Library in Elizabethtown, Linda Johnson, said there are many reasons why children should continue reading during a crisis.
“It’s just plain fun to be swept away inside a book especially when everything around them is so uncertain,” she said. “Hopefully, it will take their mind away from what’s going on and make them smile, have fun and feel normal.”
Her videos are on the YouTube channel, “Story Time with Ms. Linda.”
“We’re hoping to be helpful because preschoolers or kindergartners have required reading each day, so maybe they can do their 20-30 minutes of reading with me or another reader,” she said. “We’re also hoping this will help parents who have multiple children at home or are still trying to do their work from home as well.”
Listening to her stories might also give parents a break for a few minutes, Johnson said.
The idea came from her son, Micah, who’s helping produce the videos.
“His heart for children and their parents and his knowledge of technology are huge. My love of storytelling got us to this point,” she said.
When her son asked, Johnson didn’t hesitate to come out of retirement.
“When you have a love for reading to kiddos, it just never really goes away,” she said.
Johnson was preschool program director at the library for 21 years.
Jessica Russo, a third-grade teacher at New Highland Elementary School, started reading books online before the COVID-19 pandemic began. Her Facebook page is called Maggie Moose’s Marvelous Tails.
“I really wanted to show my students reading is important and doesn’t only have to happen inside the school building during school hours,” she said. “I wanted kids to be excited to tune in on Friday nights to share a story.”
She wanted kids to see she makes time to read at home for enjoyment. Russo’s dog, Maggie, also makes appearances.
“Maggie is more popular than I will ever be, so I needed her to be my sidekick,” she said.
“We are living in a time when technology is embedded into education, so why not use it to promote literacy,” she said of having story time during at home education.
But she’s also old school. She wants her students to see, touch and read printed books. Maggie Moose’s Marvelous Tails are a combination of those ideas, she said.
“Especially now during these times while schools are closed, students can’t access the school library or it’s resources,” she said. “That doesn’t mean reading together has to stop and as small as that sounds, to a child that familiarity can be so important.”
Russo said there are many benefits to having a story time.
“Kids should have the opportunity to hear adults reading,” she said. “Having a good role model can improve confidence in reading.”
She tries to teach her kids she also will make mistakes, but when she does it helps her become a stronger reader and writer.
“Giving kids the chance to hear a variety of authors is important, too,” she said. “It may help spark their curiosity and creativity for reading and writing, that, of course, carries over to all other facets of life.”
Local photographer and North Hardin Christian School teacher Josh Astor decided to not only do story time but also get other small businesses involved.
As a teacher, he said he’s learned the value of interacting with his students and story time is a perfect way to do that.
“As a small business owner, I also wanted to meet this need through my business page to help encourage parents and children everywhere during this time,” he said. “My hope is my daily story time will break up the boredom and promote literacy during this challenging time for Kentuckians.”
There are many celebrity reading videos online and Astor said they are entertaining, but small businesses are a part of the community. He thought children could see familiar faces from businesses reading during their day.
Currently, Marnie Clagett with Clagett Photography has participted in the project and Astor hopes others continue to join.
His story time can be found on his business page on Facebook, Josh Astor Portrait & Design.
He said Americans are facing challenges no one expected and story time not only promotes early literacy but also a sense of community.
“With the closing of schools and cancellations of many play dates, children are not able to participate in a group and share an experience,” he said. “This allows an opportunity to keep some sense of normalcy during this chaotic time.”
Astorsaid it feels like a virtual neighborhood.
“In doing so, I can carry on the spirit and tradition of a childhood favorite of mine, Mr. Rogers, who greeted everyone as, neighbor,” he said. “Even though I was on the other side of the screen, I still felt that sense of community and support needed by all children.”
He’s received pictures from parents of kids watching his story times in Kentucky, as well as other states and from a nursing home.
“I hope through all of this I am doing my part to encourage #teamkentucky,” he said.