I just think that’s cool – that we are all sharing in the love and the celebration of literacy.
When Brookwood Principal Meleia Bridenstine started in her role as principal last year, she wanted to find a way to connect with families and encourage literacy. After talking with her friend in the district, District Math Curriculum Specialist Brandi Moore, she knew that the best way to create meaningful connections would come while at home wearing her pajamas. Thus, the "Bedtime Story with the Principal" live Facebook video series of reading a bedtime story was born.
The first implementation of the idea came right before Christmas. Moore designed an advertisement and Bridenstine requested permission from author of "How to Catch Santa," Jean Reagan before cozying up next to her Christmas tree and pressing record.
Bridenstine said reading the stories "live" allows parents and students to interact in real time with questions and comments like, "We love this story!" or, "I am here watching with my mom and my brother!"
"We don't use the series for anything other than reading the book," said Bridenstine. "We aren't trying to promote events or ask for things we need at the school; it is purely sharing a great story with families and modeling how lap reading and shared reading should look at home."
After the video is over, it remains on the school's Facebook page for viewers to watch at any time. Bridenstine said she has read about eight stories since Christmas, not doing it every single Sunday in attempt to keep it novel. The videos typically get between 1,000-1,500 views.
Bridenstine said she plans to read a story the Sunday night before students return from spring break.
"Right before kids come back to school, they sometimes get anxious. I feel that if they can just turn on Facebook Live and we can all be excited about reading a story together, then it's non-threatening and they are excited to return to school," she said. "So I always try to do one right after a break or if a big world event has happened and kids need help synthesizing what has occurred."
Bridenstine explained she wants to connect to students but not overdo it. She tries to read stories if there is something culturally relevant and important to recognize, like a holiday. She read related books surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for example, and then always donates a copy of the book to the school library so that students can check it out.
The idea has taken on a life of its own and created community in ways bigger than Bridenstine ever intended. From this idea has come the Brookwood Principal's Book Club, sponsored by Big Red READS, as well as a few book studies and literature circles at the school. The author of "How to Catch Santa" sent Brookwood a Christmas card, excited that the school enjoyed her book. Bridenstine shared the project in a Facebook group called Principal Principles Leadership Group, which inspired a Principal in Texas to successfully replicate the project at her own school.
"We've just really tried to reach out and connect with students in a way that we can show them that reading and writing really lives. It's not just about instruction; it's about the beauty of and love for learning," she said. "Our whole district has pitched in and been encouraging. Some of the other principals are thinking of trying out the idea. I just think that's cool – that we are all sharing in the love and the celebration of literacy."
Here's what a few Brookwood students had to say about the idea:
- RP Stafford: My mom said it was great and good for kids who don't have someone to read stories to them. I really like it and think it is great for kids who can't read.
- Leola Bethel: Ella and I love your books you read. My mom likes it because that means she doesn't have to use her voice on reading an entire chapter book to us! My favorite book you read was the book about Mrs. Claus and how the girl gave up her gifts for her brother!
- Ezra Wingfield: I believe it was a good idea because it could help people with social skills and help people fall asleep. My mom believes it was a good idea and that it was creative.
- Mary Sharp: They are so good for kids little and big and the expression you use. My parents think it is a great idea, too.
- Kaylen Chitwood: I love when you read us stories and how you express all the emotions. My mom loves when you read and thinks you're really nice and great.
- Jack Houston: I believe what Mrs. Bridenstine is doing is very good influence and kick-starter for kids who are just learning to read. It's a great thing that she is doing it, but it's even greater that she is reading to kids out of love and compassion. Thank you, Mrs. Bridenstine!
- Georgia Claire Sanders: The Christmas stories especially made me feel in the holiday spirit. We have a lot of books in my house, but do not take the time to sit together to read. It's different because my family sits together to watch, and I see it as quality family time."
Here's what a few Brookwood parents think:
- Marylynn Jones: My girls really enjoy it. I like that it is recorded to watch at our convenience.
- Ashley Carroll: I think this is a fun way to build relationship with the students.
- Another parent: I love sharing with my child that Mrs. Bridenstine will be reading a book on Facebook that night. Her face lights up with anticipation. When 8 p.m. comes, we snuggle up in bed together around the iPad to watch our favorite principal share her love of reading.
Brookwood Teachers are loving the idea, too:
- Stasha Wright: I love the concept of our principal reaching out to our students in their homes through technology. Reading extends beyond the school day and "Bedtime Story with your Principal" is a great example of this."
- Kimberly Warmack: Mrs. Bridenstine is inspirational in volunteering to take time away from her personal family on Sunday nights in order for the students of Brookwood to have a bedtime story read to them. Research proves many benefits of children being read to daily, and her willingness to assist using this platform is outstanding. This proves she is fun, entertaining and deeply cares for our students' reading success.
- Emily Carpenter: I love the bedtime stories! I think it allows our students and parents to see Mrs. Bridenstine outside of the school office and they can make a more personal connection with her.