Coronavirus threatened to shut down March is Reading Month. So educators got creative.

By: - March 21, 2020 10:14 am

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A year ago, classrooms of students would be lined up in desks or sitting in circles on the floor while teachers read their favorite books aloud in celebration of March is Reading Month. 

But this year, amid the COVID-19 pandemic that closed schools and libraries, everyone is getting creative to ensure that students are still reading from home. 

Susan J. Demas graphic

“Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. All day long he hears, ‘Click, clack, moo,” the White Lake Community Library Youth Coordinator Hannah Moulds read while sitting on the ground in front of a webcam, surrounded by stuffed animals. 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s March 13 executive order closed all K-12 schools effective Monday. In another action, she closed most public businesses starting Monday, including libraries. 

The Whitehall Public Library had closed its doors to the public on March 13, but Moulds said she “couldn’t sit there and do nothing.” So she still leads storytimes for children a few days a week.

She said she’s trying to keep a normal routine for the children with a few songs and a couple books. Mould also is offering coloring pages for children to print off at home. And now instead of kids coming into the library, she is livestreaming the story times on the library’s Facebook page, so the children can still watch from home.

Video-recorded readings have been one way that many teachers, librarians, community members and public officials are adjusting to the “new normal.”

Despite all the uncertainty for families and school staff, many people across Michigan are pitching in to help students during March is Reading Month. 

Herbert Hoover Elementary School in Livonia is hosting a March Madness reading competition. Danielle Tandoc, a high school science teacher at Okemos High School, started an Instagram account to livestream bedtime stories for children and update her students daily. 

Attorney General Dana Nessel and Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) both recorded storytimes on their social media accounts.

Sen. Mallory McMorrow Facebook notice for video story-time

McMorrow said she always looks forward to March is Reading Month as an opportunity to visit young students, but she has had to cancel many of her scheduled in-person events.

Now a few times a week, she is meeting children and families where they are: online. 

“I’m just hoping to keep things kind of normal for families,” McMorrow said. “I know it’s easy to get stir-crazy, and I can’t imagine how it is for a lot of parents who are suddenly at home with their kids and trying to be teachers on top of being parents.”

Mia Rodgers, a teacher at Northville Presbyterian Preschool, started the month by surprising her students in class with “mystery guest readers,” all of whom were her students’ parents. Throughout the day, the students would get hints and guess whose parent was the reader of the day.

“It was really sweet to see like the look on their face when they realized that it was their mom or dad that was there,” Rodgers said. “And obviously, once we realized that we weren’t going back to school in March, we wanted to come up with a way to continue that.”

Now Rodgers is emailing daily clues and pre-recorded videos of their mystery guest readers, so her students can still participate at home. 

“For us, we are just trying to still touch base with our kids and make sure they know that we’re still there for them. We are also sending parents resources so that they can feel like we’re still supporting their children,” Rodgers said. 

Moulds has a message for the kids she can’t see right now: “We at the library care about you so much. And we miss you every day that we don’t get to see you. We miss you just as much as you miss us. I can’t wait to see you again and pick up where we left off.”

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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.