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We're leaders of Mayo High School's UNICEF Club located in Rochester, MN. As UNICEF Club leaders and members, we're committed to educating ourselves and members about the critical work UNICEF does to protect the world's most vulnerable children and help them reach their highest potential. When many schools began a system of distance/online learning during March, a specific area of UNICEF's work became all the more critical - education.
Why did we start Project Read Aloud?
Throughout the year, UNICEF works endlessly to promote education even in the most vulnerable communities and dangerous circumstances. Just as UNICEF is always there to provide and maintain education access, we wanted to help children in our local community stay engaged and excited about learning, even during this pandemic. Unfortunately, some students may lose interest in their learning and school work because they can’t physically be in the classroom with their peers. To provide support, Mayo UNICEF started Project Read Aloud, which involves high school students filming videos of themselves reading children’s books to send to younger elementary students in the surrounding community. With a message of encouragement and book topics ranging from compassion and llama drama to Dr. Seuss and snowy days, the Project Read Aloud videos aim to inspire a love for learning.
Another pillar of this project is mentorship, which we pursued by showing younger students that there are many high schoolers or “big kids,” as they see us, who are supporting and encouraging them during this difficult time. As several of our partnered teachers have shared, it is important for high schoolers to act as role models for younger students during this unprecedented time. With Project Read Aloud, we can help ensure children in our own communities are continuing to grow in and explore the world through books, despite challenging circumstances.
Impact of this project
My kindergarten class has enjoyed seeing and hearing stories read to them by the 'big kids' of our community. It is important for young students to see that reading is a lifelong love and skill, especially when it is demonstrated by middle and high schoolers to whom they look up to. Partnerships between the 'littles' and the 'olds' are crucial for building a community between buildings of learners. - Ms. Mary Johnson, Kindergarten Teacher at Bamber Valley
Mrs. Mary Ruff, a teacher at Bamber Valley Elementary School, incorporated Project Read Aloud into her class’ Summer choice Board:
How to recreate this project for YOUR Club:
- Set guidelines for Project Read Aloud video submissions ( horizontal frame, introduce yourself, aim for a length of 3-6 minutes, make sure book pages are facing the camera)
- Compile a list of elementary schools in your area, and search their staff directories to find the emails of teachers who teach your target audience (ours were kindergarten, first grade, and second grade teachers)
- Reach out to the teachers through email to introduce your UNICEF , UNICEF’s work (particularly in education), and a description of Project Read Aloud. The goal of this email should be to determine teachers’ interest in partnering with your club for this project. You could create an example Project Read Aloud video of a board member to include in your introductory email for teachers. Be sure to base the number of teachers/schools you reach out to on the current capacity of your club’s project (in the beginning of the project, you may have fewer videos, so starting out with 1-2 schools may be more feasible).
- Establish a system of storing and distributing videos. We created a central document that lists video links and grouped the videos in sets. This allowed us to send one set of videos each week to partnered teachers. All videos were stored as unlisted video URLs from our club’s YouTube account.
- As soon as one teacher has confirmed that they would like to partner with your club for Project Read Aloud, announce the project to members and encourage them to record and submit their own videos! To submit their videos, we had members email them to our club’s email.
- Publicize the project to members outside of your club to encourage broader involvement!
Some important things to remember:
- Create and spread around a graphic covering general info about the project and guidelines for video submission (have members share the graphic on social media to engage more students!)
- To help with organization, create a timeline of the project beginning from the time of teacher outreach and opening video submissions to distributing the first set of videos
- Safety guidelines: Remember to connect with teachers directly will make sure that you are following the policies and procedures of the school district.
- Copy your advisor in all communication to hold everyone accountable to child safeguarding best practices. Advisors also have great connections with other teachers, ask them for help.
- Turn comments off the videos for the protection of all those involved
- Get written permission from every person submitting a video, and if they are under the age of 18, a parent/guardian must issue the authorization in participating in the project
2019-2020 Mayo UNICEF Executive Board
Emily, Shikha, Haley, Anna, Michelle, Jennifer, Daniel, Zachary & Alaina