Serving the Community with Story Time

Clifford, Franklin, Winnie the Pooh and the CJ Eagles – it’s a perfect fit.

Chaminade Julienne student council members found a way to connect with local elementary school children virtually, share their love of reading and spread some holiday cheer with the creation of a Story Time Video Library. Service projects have been a bit more challenging given pandemic parameters, but Libby Harbaugh’s junior class student council members were not deterred.

“We were brainstorming COVID-friendly ideas for a service project – something different and unique – and Lauren Stueve suggested this idea,” the junior class student council moderator said.

Stueve, a junior, had previously created fun and engaging video resources for St. Benedict the Moor Catholic School and The Glen, including activities to use as brain breaks as well as virtual stories.

“My aunt works with kids with disabilities and I have a 4-year-old brother, so when I was looking at service ideas, I was definitely drawn to education and children right away,” Stueve said.

It wasn’t long before the story time video library went from idea to reality. While the junior class members came up with the concept, all student council members were encouraged to participate. They selected favorite childhood books – many with a holiday theme, given the timing – put on some CJ apparel and recorded themselves reading. Sometimes there were a few takes to get it just right.

“I felt like I never had the perfect video, but it was a lot of fun,” Stueve said. 

The virtual story time project was a family affair for English teacher Katlyn DeLong.

“I wanted to participate because I thought it was such a fresh, creative idea to record ourselves reading for elementary students,” DeLong said. “My older daughter, Charlotte, is a freshman and a student council ambassador for her class. She wanted to get involved in the project because she is really inspired by all the opportunities for service as a student council member. She is also a book lover, so it was fun for her to share some of her favorites with other children. As a mom, it was so fun to watch her read in such an animated way. She really got into it.

“As for my little one, Sylvie, she is 8 years old. She saw Charlotte and I doing the virtual story time, so she wanted to jump right in. She read 'Sam and Dave Dig a Hole,' which is one of her favorites. Overall, it was a fun experience to share and it combined some of my favorite things – teaching, reading, and my girls.”

Each video began with a brief introduction of the student and a mention of their own elementary school. In all, 47 videos were recorded and the close to 20 students who participated received service hours based on the number of stories they read and submitted. Harbaugh then shared a link to the video library with 13 local Catholic schools.

“We heard the most amazing feedback,” Harbaugh said.

“What a fabulous idea - this just energizes me with the goodness that bubbles up in all of us when we collaborate for the common good :) With much gratitude for the beauty and joy wrapped up in this virtual library experience,” Elisabeth Friel, reading specialist at Ascension.

“Thank you so much for this! How exciting to see so many of our former students reading the stories. I know our students will enjoy seeing their former prayer family leaders, family friends, and older siblings on these videos. And as the librarian, I can use all the resources I can get for story time during the pandemic,” Carrie Hartley, teacher at St. Chris.

Harbaugh, who is also a CJ Spanish teacher, is already brainstorming engaging ways to continue and expand the program.

“I could have Spanish students read stories in Spanish and share them as well,” she said. “I think there is definitely enough interest to keep it going.”

And while the elementary school audience likely enjoyed their time hearing about Pete the Cat and Charlie Brown, they weren’t the only ones who reaped the benefits of the project.

“I think the project is great for the high schoolers to do because it makes them more aware of the small ways they can reach out to others in the community,” DeLong said. “Service is such an integral part of life at CJ, and this year has challenged all of us to think of creative ways to share our blessings, gifts, and talents with others.”


--This story was published on February 26, 2021.