In an effort to bring students, faculty and staff together during the cold winter months, four faculty members have come together to create LU Reads, a weekly Zoom meeting open to all to come together and listen to read-alouds of children’s books. This event is the brainchild of Reference Librarian and Instruction Coordinator Gretchen Revie; Assistant Professor of Education Stephanie Burdick-Shepherd; Instructor of Freshman Studies, and Senior Experience Coordinator and Lecturer of Biology Amy Nottingham-Martin; and Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Spiritual and Religious Life Linda Morgan-Clement. As to how the project came about, Revie said, “Folks in the library were thinking about ways to connect with the campus community and to build and sustain those kinds of connections.” And the 20-minute Zoom meetings on Wednesday nights are one way to do just that. “Those of us in fairly different departments all recognized our campus needs,” Burdick-Shepherd added. “I was fairly excited because [my] course asks the question ‘Why read children’s books?’ and one of those reasons is to connect with people.”
Since the second week, every Wednesday at 7 p.m., these four coordinators have hopped on to Zoom for a 20-minute children’s book reading session with various faculty, staff and students, sometimes to read books themselves and sometimes just to listen. Each week, two new readers share their love for children’s books with the rest of the group. Some of the readers are faculty and staff who tune in and others are students from Burdick-Shepherd’s education studies class, Why Read Children’s Books? “It’s great to connect with people who share a love of children’s books,” Nottingham-Martin said of the event.
The coordinators expressed that what we all need to be reading right now has changed because of the pandemic, and children’s books are one option for that change. “We can’t go back to our normal genres,” Burdick-Shepherd shared. “We are finding that we are unable to immerse ourselves in what we usually would.” The organizers have found that children’s books are one way to break out of that rut where normal coping mechanisms and normal reading habits just aren’t cutting it anymore for some.
Further, with the pandemic causing so much stress for everyone, the desire to turn back the clock can be appealing. LU Reads may be an excellent opportunity to do a little bit of that by diving into childhood favorites and trying out a genre of books that most adults don’t read often. Morgan-Clement said, “It’s also a way into that part of our lives that we are longing to have filled with reading and hope.”
With so many meetings and activities happening online these days, Zoom fatigue is a genuine problem for many, so, tuning in to yet another online meeting outside of normal working hours may sound a bit painful to say the least. But, Morgan-Clement shared, “I never dread this, even though it’s on Zoom. We invite each other into our real lives and can just tune in … It’s not stressful; it’s just receiving. It’s still books, but it’s books as a gift instead of books as an assignment with tons of stress.” The hope is that everyone else who shows up to listen feels the same way and leaves feeling filled up instead of drained.
Looking forward to the future of the LU Reads project, the group is considering continuing as they have been but are also looking into trying to do a read-through of a longer children’s chapter book that would span several weeks instead of multiple shorter picture books as they have been doing now. So, stay tuned for updates on that in future terms.
Burdick-Shepherd encourages everyone to come to the weekly event, as LU Reads is a great way to relax and connect with others. With children or without, all are invited to attend. It’s 20 minutes where you can stop whatever you are doing and tune in. If you need any more incentive to check out the event, there are many cats who make consistent appearances throughout the readings. Burdick-Shepherd wants anyone and everyone who can to attend no matter where you are or what you are doing to “come as you are, when you are.”
If you would like to tune in and join many other lovers of children’s books, hop on to Zoom at 7 p.m. every Wednesday by scanning the QR code above.