Virtual story times help public library reach kids

Posted March 8, 2021

The River Falls Public Library continues to make youth literacy a priority amid the COVID-19 pandemic by conducting “Virtual Storytimes.”

Monica LaVold, who has been working at the River Falls Public Library for nine years, creates content designed to teach and expose kids ages birth to 18 to reading and literacy.

Story times, which are sessions during which a librarian reads books and other materials out loud to children as a means of advancing youth literacy, are at the heart of a librarian’s job, according to LaVold.

“Story times are a really great way to introduce kids to books and literacy,” said LaVold. With the pandemic eliminating the possibility of in-person story times, LaVold decided to adapt her content for online platforms.

Initially, the story times were held twice a week, ran 45 minutes long and were uploaded onto Facebook Live and Youtube. As the first weeks of her online programming went by, LaVold said she began to learn more about the strengths and weaknesses of online learning. Ultimately, she realized that “shorter is better.”

So, she reworked her programming. Now, only Thursdays feature a full story time. The other days of the week are dedicated to short activities that are based on themes that change weekly. On Mondays, LaVold shares a brief song centered around a word such as love, or a literary topic such as rhythm, and these videos are called “Music Mondays.” On Tuesdays, she conducts shorter versions of story times that are designed for babies and toddlers. “Wednesday Wonders” are videos that highlight literary skills and tools meant to encourage early reading. Finally, there are “Felt Board Fridays,” during which LaVold uses personally crafted visuals to help illustrate whatever the learning theme of the day is.

The virtual programming is set to end on April 30, but that is entirely based on what the situation of the pandemic is when the time comes. LaVold said she wants to ensure that learning is not lost over the summer due to a lack of available educational content. Equity and access to learning are issues that are paramount to LaVold in her teaching. She said she she wants to make sure that all River Falls youth have the same opportunities to learn and grow year-round.

She is entertaining several ideas including instituting a hybrid program that would be a mix of online programming and in person meetings held outdoors at various locations such as Glen Park. LaVold’s content can be live streamed on YouTube and Facebook Live starting at 10:30 a.m. Monday-Friday, and old videos can be found on the River Falls Public Library’s Facebook page.