Though many young students enjoy listening to an adult read a good book to them, not all children have that opportunity during the COVID-19 pandemic and learning from home.
To ensure students who do not otherwise have access to books are able to continue to hone their reading skills, Hillsborough Education Foundation is partnering with the Tampa Bay Chamber, Hillsborough County Public Schools and Scholastic to expand Storytime Online—an early education literacy initiative started by Hillsborough County Public Schools Board Member Dr. Stacy Hahn last year.
“What a special opportunity that Hillsborough County Public Schools has to be able to partner with Hillsborough Education Foundation, Tampa Bay Chamber and the Scholastics for Storytime Online,” said Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis. “We look forward to expanding this initiative and our partnership with the Chamber, with Hillsborough Education Foundation and really having a singular goal of exposing children to quality, rich content all the time.”
Dr. Hahn said she was compelled to launch Storytime Online because she wanted to connect schools, families and the community to the wonders of fiction books. The virtual reading initiative features local dignitaries reading exciting books in which children can follow along from the comfort of home.
“I really wanted to connect children to a love of books—children who are read aloud to actually are more likely to develop the skills they need to read more successfully on their own,” said Dr. Hahn.
As students continue to participate in extended eLearning, Hillsborough Education Foundation CEO Kim Jowell said she is excited the Foundation, school district and Chamber can team up to help provide a sense of normalcy for students who are missing the reading experience typically provided by teachers.
“Dr. Hahn’s Storytime Online has inspired me,” Jowell said. “With this eLearning, we know that students have limited daily interaction with their teachers as well as less access to books, and we really know the importance of that fundamental reading skill that needs to be built. Hillsborough Education Foundation is really excited to partner in this initiative that has already had some great traction.”
To help kick off the expanded joint initiative, Tampa Bay Chamber President and CEO Bob Rohrlack read “Whistle for Willie” by Ezra Jack Keats—one of nearly 200 books Scholastic has made available for the Storytime Online initiative.
“I’m really excited to be able to do this,” Rohrlack said. “When they asked if I wanted to read a book to some children, I said ‘I get to read a book? Absolutely!’”
Hillsborough County students and families will be able to access Rohrlack’s recorded storytime session, as well as additional videos by Chamber and community members, through the district’s online learning platform Clever, on Hillsborough Education Foundation’s YouTube channel, the school district’s YouTube channel and the social media sites of the Chamber, Foundation and district through June 30th.
In line with one of Hillsborough Education Foundation’s core beliefs, Success relies on relationships, Jowell said she is thrilled to be able to partner with business leaders and community members to offer this expanded resource to families and help foster a love of reading for students.
“We’re happy to have great partners like the Tampa Bay Chamber who we could reach out to, who we know has a very far reach, to see if they would help us in providing those readers who can read the books from Scholastic, who has generously donated and made this possible for us,” Jowell said. “We wanted to expand that resource and bring a community-focused approach to supporting literacy. Now, we can really infuse that love of reading in our younger children and inspire them to want to read more.”
For more information about Storytime Online and Hillsborough Education Foundation’s COVID-19 response, visit https://educationfoundation.com/covid-19/.