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Best of the Week 2019-2020: Excellence in College Prep


Students in Mrs. Ashley Ventura and Mrs. Julia Janisko's English classes were empowered to connect with the community by creating Children's Book Read-Aloud videos as an extra credit opportunity that aligned reading with servant leadership. "I came up with the idea when my daughter and I were looking online for storytime videos. Storytime at the library is my daughter's favorite because it makes stories more interactive and come alive," says Mrs. Ventura. "I thought that many children, who have limited access to books at home, would greatly benefit from these videos as a way to bridge the gap in literacy. On any regular day, we come in contact with strangers who we have an opportunity to serve when the call arises. While quarantining, we limit our interaction with our community and their needs, but this project helps our students remain connected to their community in some way."

"We try to integrate positive pop culture into our class experiences as much as possible throughout the year," says Mrs. Janisko. "When many celebrities began filming these types of reading videos for children at home, we thought it was an appropriate way to keep in contact with the St. Ed's community and help set our students up for success as local ambassadors of learning in their home and school communities."

In conjunction with the English department's Share the Love book drive held in February, which collected over 1,600 children's books to give to the Cleveland Children's Book Bank, the goals of the Children's Book Read-Aloud are to reduce illiteracy in our community and to serve others in a unique way during quarantine. To help teach children basic language skills needed to learn how to read, students chose their favorite children's books to read-aloud and share with the community. "I chose to read 'Bear Snores On.' My mom used to read me this book when I was little and it was my absolute favorite," says Owen Mulgrew. "Before quarantine, I used to volunteer at House of Champions and would read to the children there. I thought the Children's Book Read-Aloud was a really fun idea and it made me feel like I was a part of something great for the community."

"Many of our students have never participated in a read-aloud, which requires a certain level of theatrics and reading fluency," says Mrs. Ventura. "It's not enough to read the book aloud. The reader needs to perform the book vocally, which requires a lot of our students to step outside their comfort zones and challenge themselves to act. To see my students reading children's books to serve others has been one of the most heartwarming experiences from remote learning."

"Our goal for this project was to generate intrinsic motivation and inspire students to take initiative by thinking of others' needs, desires and likes before their own," says Mrs. Janisko. "We brainstormed about how students could lead by example, using their new online learning skills, uploading and filming videos remotely using any number of electronic devices, to share lasting, positive experiences while providing a sense of comfort or normalcy for younger students."

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