South Orangetown Central School District

Bedtime read-alouds are one way that William O. Schaefer Elementary School teachers are staying connected with students during the extended school closure.

“It is so nice to connect on a different level,” says Jennifer Fanning, who co-teaches second grade with Carol Heinemann. “Many are in pajamas with a stuffed animal or having their night time snack… and some are even ready to fall asleep by the time the story is over.”

The remote read-alouds began at the start of distance learning. Fanning and Heinemann’s class had been reading “Clementine and the Family Meeting” by Sara Pennypacker to learn about character traits and story elements. “We didn’t want the kids to miss out on the ending,” she explains. “They needed some closure and to keep our routine. We choose between chapter and shorter books for variety. We usually meet twice a week. It’s optional, but we have a nice showing at each session.”

First-grade teacher Rachel Yelin does a live reading on Wednesdays at 7:30PM. “They get to snuggle up and hear a good book,” Yelin notes. “ It’s been nice because, while I’m used to an empty nest, I’ve had all my children home with me while we’ve been social distancing: my older daughter who is 26 years old and her fiance, along with my 23-year-old son and my 20-year-old daughter. Sometimes they’ll sit with me during my read-aloud and the children in my class love to wave hello to them. They were super excited last week when Andrea Cilento, our teacher aide, joined us.”

Over the course of the past few weeks, Yelin has made some discoveries. “Epic has been a great online reading resource, as it provides access to 35,000 illustrated books and chapter books. Going on to Epic and sharing my screen allows students to really see the illustrations and words so that they can follow along as I read,” she says. “Two weeks ago. I read ‘The Most Magnificent Thing’ by Ashley Spires. I loved it because it really tied into our character education word of the month: persistence. And last week, I came across a new series that I had never heard of called the Hazel Ridge Farm Series.”

There have been some discoveries in Fanning and Heinemann’s sessions, too: “We encourage students to share their talents during the sessions. Some sing, do magic tricks, dance or just share about their day.”

Good news travels quickly: since the read-alouds began, first-grade teachers Christine Bolte and Allison Costello have begun hosting their own sessions!

Three teachers doing onscreen read-alouds