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.
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.