Who doesn’t love bedtime stories? That’s what Kathryn Gonzales, librarian at Alvarado Elementary School near the North Valley, thought when she started a virtual story time program on Wednesday evenings for her school.
That was two years ago; the pandemic was in full force, and students were in remote learning.
“We started it last school year to help bridge that gap,” says Kathryn. “It was good for kids to log in and see students from other grades and even other classes.”
The students responded so well to the evening virtual story times that Kathryn brought the program back this fall, pairing it with the school PTA’s annual Read-a-thon, which has become a fall tradition. Now, parents and siblings join students plugging in to watch and listen as “special guests” from the local and school communities drop in online to share their favorite tales, many of them bilingual. Such distinguished readers have included a firefighter, the school cafeteria manager, and Principal Luke Berglund.
The kids keep coming back to this low-tech bedtime entertainment.
“They just listen to the story,” which is good, she says, since most of the time the “visuals aren’t that strong” and there are no video or other special effects that kids are accustomed to. “But we’re programmed as humans to listen to stories, so it sparks that part of their brains.”
This elementary librarian has tapped into a deep truth: Connecting through storytelling is one of the best ways we can bond as people and pupils.
That sense of community runs deep at Alvarado, which has been educating Albuquerque Public School students in this neighborhood since the 1950s. Kathryn says many of her school’s grandparents, parents and teachers were taught in these classrooms – including both of her daughters, now 14 and 17. She started at the school as a PTA volunteer and a substitute teacher but became the librarian and STEM teacher about four years ago – and she’s never looked back.
“Alvarado is such a little gem,” she says, adding that the diverse population of the Dual Language Program and Title I school includes families from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, representing, she says, “the real world.” “Families choose this school because they believe in public school.”
We’re almost halfway through our Year of Literacy, but I will never tire of hearing stories like Kathryn’s from across New Mexico about how our schools are inspiring this next generation of book lovers.
“I have the best job in the world,” Kathryn says. I couldn’t agree more.
Lit tips: Kathryn has a few tips for motivating students to read. No. 1: Have books and other reading materials available. It’s why her school offers weekly hands-on book experiences for students. No. 2: Be a model reader. “They don’t always see adults reading for pleasure,” she says. “If you want a reader, be a reader.”
NM PED Secretary-designate Kurt Steinhaus’ monthly column is part of “The Literacy Project,” which shines a light on the issue in partnership with KOAT-TV and KKOB Radio.