Making Virtual Reading Sessions Work For Your Family
So, let’s be honest. I don’t come across a lot of parents at the playground that geek out about kid lit quite like I do. As a result, one of the best parts of beginning this whole blogging journey has been connecting with some amazing like-minded mamas and papas. Today I’m thrilled to be sharing a guest post from one-such-mom. Samantha Munoz of Addison Reads is sharing her take on virtual reading sessions. These high-tech story times are special in our home as well. They allowed #thebigone, #thehubs, and myself to read to our nephew when he was still a tiny little squish in the NICU. If you’re a family who struggles to make regular read-a-louds work (whether due to complicated schedules or distance), Samantha has the solution for you.
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Virtual Reading Sessions
Reading with your children brings about such a closeness and intimacy that many other activities do not even come close to providing. Typically, it’s the physical closeness that reading requires (sitting next to one another, close enough to both see the words and illustrations), but it’s also an emotional closeness. Talking about the stories or laughing about the predicaments of the characters makes way for a close, deep-rooted connection with your child.
But what do you do when the physical closeness is lost, when you cannot be together in person, but still want to reap the benefits of reading with your little one? As a military family, we have dealt with this head on. My husband, daughter and I incorporate reading together into our daily lives and hold that time sacred. But we have had to get creative as we have been separated by distance. We have figured out a way to make it work with “virtual reading sessions”. I want everyone else who finds themselves in a similar situation to take back the closeness of reading together.
What is a “Virtual Reading Session”?
A virtual reading session is just what it sounds like, reading with someone – virtually! Instead of being physically present reading a book together, a video interface is used to enjoy the reading experience. There are a couple of ways you might set one of these up for yourself, Depending on the circumstance, one may be more preferable than the other. The two ways are: live or recorded.
Thanks to the existence of technology, a live reading session can be achieved pretty easily if you have a smart phone or computer. Most video programs are free and include:
- Google Hangouts
- Facebook Video Messenger
and more! We like to use FaceTime for our reading sessions because it is on my cell phone and really easy to use. Although, and this is totally a tangent, it would be so nice if there was a “FaceTime Jr” that disabled the end call button – too often my little Addison has accidentally turned off a call with daddy by clicking that very tempting large red button.
If a live session is just out of the question (maybe the reader is in a totally different time zone or in a place where they cannot make live calls), a recorded reading session can work just as well. Again, having a phone or computer at this point can pretty much take care of recording the video for you. Simply record a video of you reading the book and send it along in an email or text message. The benefit of recorded videos is that they can be played again and again, which is great if communication is infrequent. Having a stash of 5 recorded reading sessions to cycle through can really make it feel like that special person isn’t so far away at all.
Why do a Virtual Reading Session?
That last part really gets into the “why” of virtual reading sessions – why would someone do this and why does it matter? There are tons of situations that may be cause for engaging in a virtual reading session, and as a military family we have experienced a ton of them. Here are some possible reasons to do a virtual reading session:
- Business trips
- Hospital stays
- Divorces or Separations
Integrating reading into your child’s daily life is a wonderful way to engage with them and build lasting connections and memories. Just because someone is far away does not mean they should miss out on the opportunity to build that relationship with your little one. Thank the good Lord for technology, because now we do not have to go without.
When Addison’s dad is with us and not out doing training or work related adventures, we read every night as a family. It is very important to us to maintain consistency for her. Having reading as a constant makes things a little easier when everything else seems to be changing in her little world. Enter our virtual reading sessions – we try to do them as often as we can to recreate the experience of reading together. Sometimes we have to do recorded ones simply because it’s the nature of the beast of this military lifestyle. When we get those sacred live reading moments, we soak them up.
Who can do a Virtual Reading Session?
The real answer is, anyone! But I know you did not come to this article to hear that. If you really think outside the box, there are so many people who can hold a virtual reading session:
- Aunts & Uncles
Solo parenting can be super difficult (trust me, I know from experience). Incorporating my husband into our reading time makes me feel like my partner is still there and we are a team. This could even work for separated families – having mom or dad record a video of them reading a book can help bring the family together if only for a moment. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings who are far away can join in and build the connection with your child by reading to them.
Virtual Reading Session Process
If you’re ready to set up a virtual reading session, here’s a quick process you can follow.
- Send the virtual reader some books or have them choose some to surprise the child
- Set up a special moment, put it on the calendar (if live) or have a time when the child should expect to receive the recorded version
- For the person with the child, engage with them and encourage them to communicate as much as possible
- For the reader, be energetic and cheery. Read the book facing the camera and don’t be afraid to have some fun with it (silly voices, multiple books, etc.)
- Set a time to do some more – have the child involved in choosing the next books and set up an order for them to be delivered!
Have you ever held a virtual reading session? What technology did you utilize? Would you do it again?
Samantha Munoz is a mother, wife, engineer, bibliophile and avid coffee drinker. She is also the expert kid’s lit curator at Addison Reads and author of The Intentional Bookshelf. Sam writes children’s book reviews to guide parents as they search for the perfect books for their little ones and helps moms and dads build a library with a purpose. Once a seriously overwhelmed and stressed out parent herself, Sam turns to children’s literature for the answers to all of her parenting dilemmas. She currently lives in sunny California but loves when it rains because it gives her an excuse to stay inside and read with her daughter!