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With the pandemic keeping many bookstores and libraries shuttered across the state, education students at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg took to YouTube this fall to read picture books aloud for children suffering reading withdrawal.
Early childhood education student Maura Carr teamed up with Student PSEA advisor and Director of Education at Greensburg Melissa J. Marks to secure a $500 grant for books that they purchased from local bookstore Sparks Books. The grant was called “We Can See Ourselves in Others,” and each of the books has a multicultural theme.
“The books are not about being Black or being female or whatever. They’re just stories about kids, but they have diverse characters,” Marks said. “For a lot of kids who are a lot less privileged, libraries are closed during COVID and little kids don’t go online and say, ‘I want that book.’ They go to the little kids’ section and they find a book that looks pretty or looks interesting or the kid looks like them. The library’s closed. Poor kids are not getting books. Bookmobile is closed. Head Start is closed. They have Head Start online, but they’re not getting read to. We know in early childhood education that one of the most important factors is being talked to and being read to.”
With the help of the university IT department and another Student PSEA member, Kayla Fencil, the UPG SPSEA YouTube channel was born. It currently hosts 16 titles read aloud by Student PSEA members, but Marks said her goal is to get up to at least 100 books.
You can find the videos by searching for “UPG SPSEA” on YouTube.