Reading time was a favorite time of day for Carol Valdez’s kindergarteners at Shawanoe Elementary. But when the school year ended this spring, the class had hardly made a dent in new box of books that Valdez had ordered in the middle of the year.
Then, earlier this summer, the mother of one of Valdez’s former kindergarteners sent Valdez a video of her child, crying because they missed seeing Valdez in the classroom.
That got Valdez, who has worked in the Shawnee Mission School District since 2011, thinking.
“I thought, ‘How can I use technology to be a continuation of where we left off?’” Valdez said.
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She decided to launch a YouTube channel focused on reading the books that she never got to share with her students.
She filmed the first video on her back porch with an I-phone, and said she felt nervous being on camera. But once, she started reading “Frederick,” by Leo Lionni, she got into a groove.
“In thinking about you guys I thought about how many books that we didn’t get to read together...because there are thousands and thousands of books, so I got the idea to make a video...” Valdez said in the beginning of the clip she posted to the Internet that day.
She sent the link in emails and texts to the parents of her former students and received enough positive feedback that Valdez decided to make a few more. Valdez and her daughter, Lilian-Jeannette, decided to film a video at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kan.
Lilian-Jeannette Valdez read ‘If You Decide To Go To the Moon’ by Faith McNulty with aircrafts in the background of the shot.
Soon, the channel took off in ways that Valdez said she never expected. Several teachers recorded readings for her channel and others took books on the road with them for vacations and trips.
One teacher read “Mama’s Little Duckling” in front of the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
Fox4 Reporter Matt Stewart read the ‘The Book With No Pictures’ by B.J. Novak of The Office fame. (It’s a personal favorite of his seven-year-old.)
Valdez talked about how Kansas has become home after growing up in El Salvador, and read ‘I’m New Here’ by Anne Sibley O’Brien in Strawberry Hill.
Principal Dominic Flora said the project isn’t just a way to combat the summer learning slide that can occur when kids are distracted by other summer activities. He said it’s helped inform how the district will use technology to enhance learning in the future.
“This has engaged parents and families,” Flora said. “It’s used technology to make a connection with kids when they are not with you. I think that’s really powerful.”
Valdez said she isn’t sure what she’ll do with her YouTube channel once school begins again, but she’s open to continuing it and expanding her roster of guest readers to include more high-profile people in the community.
“To be a successful teacher you need to be personal with you kids,” Valdez said. “My kids know me. When they watch a video at home, it’s not impersonal, but personal.”