Niskayuna Read Aloud program links familiar faces to eager audiences

Each day, a different teacher takes a turn recording a video reading a children's book
Beth Trela reads a children’s book while connecting with students via her computer on April 15.
Beth Trela reads a children’s book while connecting with students via her computer on April 15.

Reading a book to a child is an experience almost every parent enjoys.

It provides quiet time, sometimes snuggled close together, looking at the bright pages and providing a glimpse into another world with a son or daughter.

What is a common practice each night has become something taken from the classroom and onto the internet through Facebook, as Glencliff Elementary School kindergarten teacher Beth Trela created the Great Niskayuna Read Aloud program.

Each day, a member of the Niskayuna Central School District takes a turn at recording a video reading a children’s book aloud for his or her students — and the public — to enjoy during the COVID-19 crisis.


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“I was putting my daughter to bed one night and we were reading ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar,’ and I thought ‘My students love this book — let’s just try it,’ ” said Trela, who has a 10-month-old named Quinn. “I posted it [online] the next day and I got a lot of great feedback. They loved seeing Quinn and they loved the book. I decided to grab another one, and grab my son [2-year-old Griffin] and I brought him into it, and they loved seeing him, and I let him do some reading and reactions.”

Trela taught prekindergarten at Arbor Hill Elementary School for five years and spent last year at St. Mary’s Academy in Hoosick Falls before accepting her position at Glencliff.

The Gazette caught up with Trela to talk about the Great Niskayuna Read Aloud.

Q: How long is each read-aloud video?

A: It’s only a five-minute read-aloud, but it’s something where parents can give their kids a book and know that it’s someone in the community reading [to them].

Rising to the Challenge: Faces of the COVID-19 crisis in the Capital Region

Q: Have you supplied any books to teachers to read?

A: There are fourth-grade teachers and others who want to do it, and don’t have any books. I dropped a few picture books from my own kids’ books and kept social distancing, dropping them off on their porches.

Q: How do you organize what books are read?

A: We have a Google document and we ask teachers to check for their publisher’s guidelines.

Q: Your daily introduction includes a note about permissions from each publisher. What did that involve?

A: I think that was one of our biggest hurdles starting. When I was just sharing it privately [with] my students, I didn’t need to worry about it being on Facebook, I’m just sending it out as an email. When I asked about getting this going, we did have to look into the copyright permissions because I don’t want to get in trouble. I don’t want the district to get in trouble or [get] my fellow teachers and staff in trouble.

Q: What was the response from the book publishers?

A: There have been so many read-alouds, we see celebrities like Betty White and Dolly Parton doing them, so a lot of publishing companies have lifted their copyright laws and given people permission to read their books, as long as they share that they’re reading it with the permission from the publisher.

Q: What were the challenges [of] getting the read-alouds created and posted each day?

A: I am not a tech person at all, so that is the biggest challenge for me. The whole district has been so supportive. I couldn’t figure out how to post something the other day and our communications director jumped on and posted a video. This has been a big team effort. I came up with the idea, but I am completely supported by the most amazing group of people who have embraced it.

Q: Who [has] read to students during the Great Niskayuna Read Aloud?

A: We have middle-school, high school teachers and administrators doing it. One of our middle-school teachers is doing it, and she’s silly and she’s doing voices, and I think that is such a great side for a middle-school student to see in their teacher or a high school student who had her as a student to see that.

Q: Who has been one of your favorite readers so far?

A: [Schools Superintendent] Tangorra posted. He read a Yankee book, and that was fun to see that side of him. As a new teacher, I haven’t had a ton of interactions with him, but I’m a Yankee fan. He had a Yankee sweatshirt on with Yankee stuff in the background, a [Derek] Jeter sign in the background. It’s a personal side of someone who is an administrator.

Q: How many read alouds do you have planned?

A: We hope that we’re not closed through the end of the school year, but if we are, we would have enough volunteers for every day and weekends through the school year. Teachers are emailing “I didn’t get a chance to do this yet.” I’m like, send it in, we’ll get it up there. It is such a great turnout from teachers.

Rising to the Challenge: Faces of the COVID-19 crisis in the Capital Region

Q: Do you envision the Great Niskayuna Read Aloud program continuing after COVID-19 is over?

A: I think it’s a great idea. I think kindergarten is such a different world, and we’re trying different ways to stay in touch with our kids and checking in during breaks. I would love to keep doing this. I’ve had parents say how excited their kids are to see me [and] my own children, who are in the read-alouds. It is something I would love to keep doing. I don’t know what will happen with copyrights after this, but right now I just love seeing everybody’s creativity.

Categories: Rising to the Challenge, Saratoga County, Special Sections

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