Bringing the Library to Our Students, One Video at a Time
by Kelli Medart, Special Education Paraprofessional, Rocketship Rising Stars Academy
Just before the school year ended in June, I was speaking with some of our Rocketeers about their summer reading. I heard one or two complaints, like “I can’t believe I have to read a book EVERY DAY.” I also heard the opposite of that, in the form of “I GET to read a new book EVERY DAY!” But then I heard one response that made me pause: “I can’t read over the summer because I don’t have books at home.”
My heart sank when I heard this. I thought of that student’s parents, who work incredibly hard to provide for their children and give them opportunities. I thought of those parents who try to give their kids the world but often cannot due to the expensive cost of living in this city and this state. So I decided to ask the class I was with if they had the same problem at home. “Rocketeers,” I said. “Raise your hand if you don’t have books at home or can’t get new books to read at home?” About 10 to 15 hands went up. That was too many hands.
I felt horrible knowing that these kids, most of whom share my absolute joy of reading, can only get books from school. I also could relate to our Rocketeers. There was a time in my life as a child when my parents had no income and we were barely surviving off of what little savings they had. My mom was recovering from surgery and the company my dad worked for went bankrupt. Sure, we had books in our home, but I had already read each of them to the point of memorization. Going to the library was also not an option, since the closest one was about a 30 minute drive away from us and my parents didn’t have the gas, time, or energy to spare to take us there.
So that’s when the lightbulb moment happened. If I could not bring all of our Rocketeers to the library, then I would find a way to bring the library to them. If I could find a way to somehow read a new book to them at least 5 days of the week, then those who didn’t have access to new books could still fill out their summer reading logs. So that’s what I decided to do.
I got myself a free library card at the library closest to me. Each weekend, I would check out a large variety of books: books about dragons and princesses and whales (oh, my!), and everything in between. I would also choose books for a variety of STEP Levels. I would even sometimes see our Rocketeers at that library, which was absolutely amazing!
After I checked out the books, I used a document scanning app on my phone to take a picture of each page. I would then upload those to my computer and into a free online program that allowed me to record my voice so I could read the books to them. And then I would post the finished product to our school’s Facebook page every Monday-Friday evening for parents and students to enjoy. Rising Stars Academy has a special closed Facebook group just for our community. It’s a great place for parents to connect with each other and for our teachers to share pictures of the students and their accomplishments throughout the week.
I wasn’t expecting any sort of praise, and I definitely wasn’t expecting the overwhelming amount of thanks I got from parents who recognized me from the videos. But the most important appreciation I got came from the students. I heard from students I knew from working with last year, and even students I hadn’t gotten the chance to get to know very well yet. A lot of them could name their favorite out of the many books I shared with them in my videos, and the joy they felt while explaining why they liked them was tangible. It’s moments like this that remind me exactly why I do this work.
I started the summer hoping that I could in some way continue to make a difference in the lives of our wonderful Rocketeers, and by the time summer ended, I knew that I had done just that.
Kelli Medart is a special education paraprofessional for grades TK, Kinder, 1st, and 2nd at Rocketship Rising Stars Academy in San Jose, CA. Ms. Medart hails from sunny Ventura, California. She started her career working in the education field at the California State University Monterey Bay Center for Reading Diagnosis and Instruction while she earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology and Social Work. Since graduating, Kelli has worked as a private tutor and a daycare teacher before joining the team at the amazing Rocketship Rising Stars Academy. Kelli absolutely loves the life-changing work that she is able to accomplish with the fabulous team at Rising Stars and she is incredibly thankful for the awesome students that she gets to work with everyday.
Published on September 27, 2019