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Zoom Storytime

Nev­er did I ever think I would do sto­ry­time on a screen. I want to see those sweet faces, get the high-fives and hugs, watch their delight in a story’s twists and turns. However…needs must! I’ve been doing sto­ry­time on Zoom for two years now. One of the lit­tle ones who reg­u­lar­ly attends calls it my “show.” His fam­i­ly puts the zoom up on the big screen TV and they all sit on the couch and watch, and well…it does make one feel like they have a show.

Melanie Heuiser Hill

The light­ing is dif­fi­cult, I must say. I sit at the table in my office, bal­anc­ing my com­put­er on top of a stack of books, turn­ing this way and that depend­ing on the time of day/year and what the sun­light is doing at my win­dow. Some­times I set up an o‑ring light, which I’m sel­dom hap­py with — I get giant reflec­tions like crop cir­cles on the book’s pages. (I’m sure this is user error.) Some­times I crank the Ikea desk lamp to shine on the book…to the side of the book…above the book…. And by then the light com­ing in the win­dow (if it’s day­time) has changed. Such a strug­gle! I could use a pro­duc­tion crew. I do not have a pro­duc­tion crew.

But you know, the kids don’t seem to care that much. Their giant hearts are for­giv­ing. I work real­ly hard to have them be able to see the pic­tures clear­ly. I sit on a bench so I can scoot out of the frame and hold the book clos­er to the cam­era. This dou­bles as a yoga twist of sorts. They very gen­tly tell me if they can’t see the pic­tures despite my efforts.

A few months ago, as I was check­ing out an e‑picture book to pre­view on my iPad for sto­ry­time (if I like it, I check out the “real” book or buy it), I noticed there was a but­ton that said, “Read Now In Brows­er.” You’ve prob­a­bly all seen it. But I had not. I clicked it. And behold — there was the e‑book right on my com­put­er screen! I real­ize this sounds ter­ri­bly ele­men­tary, but it was a rev­e­la­tion for me. If I could view the book on my screen, then I could share my screen dur­ing the zoom! 

Friends, it works! I share my screen, and we read the book, me hit­ting the arrow keys to turn the pages. The kids have a ter­rif­ic view of the pic­tures. I am not in any way con­tort­ed to show them prop­er­ly. We do not have to wor­ry about light­ing. Par­ents tell me that they “pin” me in the upper right hand cor­ner and the kids can see me as we read, allow­ing for all the facial expres­sions and inter­ac­tions I can pro­vide in this bizarre, though handy, way we meet togeth­er these days.

Of course many pic­ture books do not come in e‑book form, and so I still do a fair amount of the cum­ber­some light­ing and the bod­i­ly con­tor­tions. But if I want to use a pic­ture book that does have an e‑version, it’s much eas­i­er. And I’ve noticed that our dis­cus­sion is rich­er after­wards — I think because they’ve seen things bet­ter. They men­tion details and they answer com­plex ques­tions as we won­der togeth­er about the char­ac­ters and events in the book.

#1 Son and Dar­ling Daugh­ter (now grown) find it amus­ing that I’ve become a fan of using e‑books in sto­ry­time, and that I do sto­ry­time on a screen at all. (We had pret­ty strict screen rules when they were grow­ing up.) But we must adapt, and if this tech­nol­o­gy allows for sto­ry­time gath­er­ings, how­ev­er vir­tu­al, then I’m a fan.

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