By Eleanore Catolico, Chalkbeat.org (republished with permission from Chalkbeat.org)
Every night, Voncile Campbell transforms into a new fantasy character. A little boy hunting for treasure with pirates. An owl playing with a fox. A teddy bear king who can’t fall asleep.
Campbell is a math teacher at Bow Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, and since the school shut down she’s created a new role for herself as a bedtime storyteller.
By posting videos on the school’s Facebook page at 8 p.m. nightly, she’s staying connected to her students and letting them know they’re still with her in spirit during the closure.
“I thought about how we have a low return of homework and students who say that there’s nobody reading to them at home,” she said. “And I really just wanted to do something to connect with my students by reading to them at night because I wanted to show them that I personally am still thinking about them.”
The novel coronavirus pandemic has disrupted students’ routines. They’re disconnected from the classmates and teachers they’re accustomed to seeing every day. For Campbell, telling bedtime stories creates stability and calm during a time of uncertainty.
She begins every video with the same phrase: “Good evening, scholars and friends. It’s time for tonight’s bedtime story.” She recites each line softly and calmly, modifying her vocal level as she embodies each character.
Campbell’s videos are quickly gaining popularity through word of mouth. They’ve collected thousands of views and been shared multiple times in the last week. She’s received a lot of positive feedback and continues to refine her approach by adding colorful images from the storybooks. A picture from the story pops up on the screen while she reads. She also started dividing the stories into episodes, asking students to email her predictions on what will happen next.
Twila Godfrey, a counselor at Marquette Elementary-Middle School in Detroit, is a close friend of Campbell’s and has a fourth-grader at Southfield Public Schools.
Godfrey said the bedtime stories are a much-needed escape for her and her daughter.
“It provides a sense of normalcy and calm that our children really need because they’re so uncertain about things that are happening right now. And it kind of takes them back to a place where they feel safe,” she said.