Honors Storytime

By Douglas M. Campbell

Grace Strodbeck, a freshman language arts major, sat in a comfy chair next to a fireplace in Fok Hall with a book in her hand and a smile on her face. She opened her book, stared into a camera on a smartboard and began to read to future viewers.

Strodbeck is a part of a program coordinated by Mollie Hartup, coordinator of student development and retention, called “Storytime.”

“Part of the Honors College experience is service. ‘Storytime’ was developed as an idea that would allow our students to read books to children in the community,” Hartup said. 

She said this program’s main focus is helping children, but it could also help with busy families.

“People in the community could benefit. Parents with young children can listen to a story on Monday evening while they are getting dinner ready or cleaning up from dinner. It’s just an additional way students can serve people in the community,” she said.

Students can sign up for the program through the Honors College newsletter “Weekly PHil,” where they can schedule a designated time to read. 

“It really piqued my interests as a volunteer opportunity because I think it’s really important to be involved and educate children,” Strodbeck said.

Books can be chosen by the students or from a selection pre-selected by the Honors College. Strodbeck selected Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” as her story to read.

“I selected ‘The Lorax’ because I remember one of my teachers reading it in the first grade and it always stuck with me. Even though it’s a kid’s book, it really speaks to some real-world issues,” Strodbeck said.

To avoid spreading the coronavirus, the Honors College created the program with student safety in mind.

“We created a scenario where our students can bring a book or choose from our selection. They sit in a comfy chair by the fireplace by themselves. Thanks to CISCO’s ‘classroom of the future,’ we start a meeting on Webex and leave the room, so that they can create the story,” Hartup said. 

Students also have the option to record their session at home, which alumni took advantage of, to get involved with the program.

The videos recorded are then uploaded onto the Honors College’s YouTube channel as a part of their “Storytime” series. Each episode runs between 20-30 minutes.

The first episode was uploaded Monday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. Annabelle Himes, a freshman business and speech pathology major, was the first student to read. She read Disney’s “Frozen” and two Halloween stories.

Grace Strodback, a freshman language arts major, participates in the ‘Honors Storytime’ service, reading children’s books virtually. Photo by Douglas Campbell

“I have always enjoyed working with children. Since a lot of the opportunities for honors this year weren’t available, I thought this would be a great opportunity to connect with the children,” Himes said.

When it came to reading, Himes wasn’t nervous about being on camera. 

“I’ve been involved with theater since I was 5 or 6 years old. It was a little different, but I didn’t feel self-conscious,” she said.

There are possible plans for a special holiday episode, set for Dec. 21. 

“Our goal is to incorporate as much information and maybe showcase some different cultures and some different ways that different people around the world celebrate different winter holidays. But it is a work in process,” Hartup said. 

New episodes will be uploaded Mondays at 6 p.m. and will continue until the end of the academic year in May 2021.

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