Read Aloud Brings School Community Together

Read Aloud Brings School Community Together
Posted on 05/18/2020
Even in these difficult times, the resilience of our Montclair students shines through. Glenfield 7th grader Kerala Kim was in the middle of her community service hours for the National Junior Honor Society when Covid-19 hit. She still needed to complete four more hours. “My mom and I were brainstorming ideas on how to get more hours, and it came to us,” she explained. “Instead of offering to help weed a neighbor’s garden or tutoring a cousin, I should do a YouTube channel where I read books to kids.” That is how Montclair Read Aloud was born.

Her excitement though was soon followed with fear and anxiety as she learned that her grandfather’s appendix had burst and that there was a large tumor next to it. She waited for word from family in Florida. "I remember pacing up and down. I felt so helpless, like I couldn’t do anything and was stuck inside,” she said. “After telling my mom how I felt, she told me, ‘go record a couple books, that will make you feel better.’” (Update from Kerala: Her grandfather is now doing well.) “It felt so good to be doing something that could help families during this pandemic,” she continued. “I guess the reason that I wanted to do something special like Montclair Read Aloud was to help people.”

  student introduces book online  student reads book online
Kerala (l) introduces a book on the Montclair Read Aloud YouTube channel. Her sister Nola (r) shows off her selection.

Soon her younger sister Nola, a 4th grader at Bradford, was recording books too. Then Kerala asked some friends if they wanted to participate. “I also decided to reach out to my house leader, Mr. Pelli and my elementary school principal, Mrs. Kirkman,” she said. “Mrs. Kirkman shared it with the entire faculty at Bradford and Mr. Pelli shared it with the rest of the eligible National Junior Honor Society students at Glenfield, and the faculty. He also shared it later with Renaissance and Buzz Aldrin middle schools. Word got out to the other elementary schools too. I soon started getting emails from more of my peers with videos of them reading books.”

Pelli said that Kerala's "Montclair Read Aloud" project, which started as a personal initiative, snowballed into something special when she recognized the opportunity to include him to help spread the word throughout the District and grow the project. “The students recognize the struggles that parents of small children are having during these stay-at-home measures. One way we have helped is by bringing story time to every home in Montclair, read by our own students and staff,” he said. “I have received emails from parents who were delighted about how their small children were responding to listening to the stories. Projects like these are instrumental in showing the students of the Montclair School District the importance of giving back to their community and recognizing when the community has a certain need during a difficult time."

"Kerala reached out to me to see if this was something teachers might be interested in. I was happy to share the link to Kerala’s book readings with all teachers, who then let their students know about it,” added Kirkman."

“We are very proud of Kerala and her efforts to make storytelling accessible to so many of our students!”

As of right now there are 48 videos posted (not including the welcome video) and about eight hours of listening time. “I think that it is really important for younger children because it is engaging and it gives them something to do. Many of the books contain valuable lessons, like self-acceptance and thirst for knowledge,” said Kerala. Added Nola, “We pick books that we loved when we were younger.”

“This is ‘simple’ screen time that hopefully makes up for parents and teachers not having enough time to read for them as much as they might want,” Kerala continued. “It can also benefit older kids because it can count as volunteer hours, and reading out loud is a lot harder than one might think.” This opportunity is open to all MPS students and staff.

If you would like to collaborate with Kerala follow these directions:
(Parents/guardians should give their students permission before sending a video recording.)
Pick a children’s book to read. 
Record yourself reading this book. 
Send an email to Kerala at [email protected] with the video recordings of your story, and she will upload them to the channel.

“I cannot express how proud I am of Kerala and all the students who have participated so far!” Pelli said. “This has shown once again how special our students truly are.”
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