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Here's what it's like reading to young children every day on Instagram Live

Coronavirus is affecting everyday life — even for those who have not been infected. We are sharing stories of its impact on local people. To share your own, please submit this form or email us at community@boston.comThis story was told by Sean Thimas, and has been transcribed and edited from a recent conversation with Kaela Anderson.

My name is Sean Thimas, and I’m the program manager for Read Boston. We are an early literacy program that serves all children in Boston. It’s been different having to work from home — I think for a lot of people. I’m used to being very engaged, face-to-face with children and families, so shifting to a virtual platform is different. [I’m] just trying to make the most of it. This is the first time I’ve ever had to work from home.

Every weekday evening, Read Boston provides a live read aloud [on] Instagram at 6 p.m., and I share a story. My goal is to make sure that kids feel like someone is engaging them in age appropriate things. And I think that literacy is the best conduit to do that, because they can take tangible skills and apply them further in life. I’m trying to engage kids in different aspects of literacy since there’s no school until the fall, it’s really important that they don’t lose their reading skills.

Some parents don’t feel comfortable reading aloud to their child, they feel like they don’t have the reading skills to do that. So sometimes I choose picture books [to] help some of our immigrant or non-English speaking families. The stories get kids interested in learning about themselves and how their family dynamics work. It’s important to find books that tell stories of different types of families in America — not all families have a mom and dad at home. Those types of stories are great, because kids can say, ‘I am just like that person.’ I think the read aloud provides good engagement with families — at least they get to take a break and let the kid enjoy the story.

It’s a lot of anxiety to make sure that the read aloud goes smoothly. I try not to make any mistakes, so I do a lot of rehearsing. I have a tripod that I use to do the video recordings — you get very creative. I’ve noticed that [my] creativity has blossomed a lot since working from home. You find skills that you didn’t know you had. My daughter and I work in her room together sometimes — she’s got a great space for me to read. But if my daughter needs something, I have to drop what I’m doing. The challenge for me is being able to separate working and just being at home. Details have to be set in place for the live recordings and asking everyone to be quiet, but it’s gotten easier. The [virtual] presence is growing, each week more people are viewing the livestreams. Anytime I have my daughter on with me there’s over 200 people [viewing].

But there’s still a lot of uncertainty because kids are going to be out of school for the entire year. In the summer, I’m normally in the community engaging with them and storytellers, and now I don’t know if that’s going to be able to happen. I just want my daughter and the kids in the community to understand that people are here for them — there are adults and services that will be provided even if there isn’t school.

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