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Westminster education students offer virtual storytime to youngsters

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Posted on Friday, February 12, 2021

Reading aloud to young children is one of the most effective ways to build a child’s pre-literacy skills, and Westminster College education students are opening up their storybooks this semester to offer a virtual "Storytime with the Titans."

Throughout February, March and April, junior and senior early childhood/special education majors will record readings of children’s literature to provide a virtual storytime experience for young children. New videos, which will also feature a related craft or activity, will be posted to Westminster College’s McGill Library’s YouTube channel at 9 a.m. each Saturday.

Each week, students will explore a book related to a specific theme.  Each book will be available to local residents for contactless checkout at McGill Library.

•    Feb. 13, Shadows: Presented by seniors Brittney Drobka of Apollo, Pa., and Tyler Caterino of Monessen, Pa.
•    Feb. 20, Cold: Presented by senior Faith Guy of Fombell, Pa., and junior Juliana Diehl of Danville, Pa.
•    Feb. 27, Love: Presented by senior Gayner Rossi of Trenton, Mich., and junior Ashley Frank of Mentor, Ohio
•    March 6, Fun: Presented by senior Madison Dickson of Greenville, Pa., and junior Emily Bonidie of Pittsburgh
•    March 13, Green: Presented by juniors Katherine Webb of Wexford, Pa., and Emma Bottcher of Chagrin Falls, Ohio
•    March 20, Weather: Presented by seniors Marissa Bowers of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and Chrissy Cannella of McKees Rocks, Pa.
•    March 27, Magic: Presented by juniors Kristen Balczon of New Wilmington, Pa., and Jaira Cowie of Beaver Falls, Pa.
•    April 3, Music: Presented by juniors Kevin MacMurdo of Pittsburgh and Makayla Guntrum of New Bethlehem, Pa.
•    April 24, Poetry: Presented by senior Avery Naleppa of McDonald, Pa., and post-baccalaureate student Hope Wilterdink of Hermitage, Pa.

“According to a multitude of research, the benefits of well-planned read-alouds are abundant. Intentional read-alouds lead into shared, guided and independent reading and writing,” said Diana Reed, lecturer in Westminster’s School of Education.

Read-alouds and storytime experiences help children build vocabularies and develop an understanding of story structures, encourage higher levels of understanding and model fluency, and motivate children to become readers and writers, said Reed.

Not only do read-aloud activities like Storytime with the Titans benefit young learners, but they also help develop important teaching skills for Westminster’s up-and-coming educators.

“Future teachers are learning—even when conducting virtual story reading—strategies which they can use to help students build strong literacy skills in any future pre-kindergarten to fourth grade class setting,” Reed said.

Reading aloud doesn’t come naturally to everyone, and Westminster preservice teachers are provided guidance to develop competencies to enhance their read-aloud techniques.

Some story book read-aloud tips:
•    Adjust your pace to fit the story. During a suspenseful part, slow down, draw your words out, and bring your listeners to the edge of their seats!
•    Be enthusiastic. Read stories that you enjoy yourself—your dislike will show if you read books that you don’t like.
•    Engage your listeners. Don’t just let your children look at the pictures in a book while you do all the reading. Call attention to the words. Read with them, not to them. Have in mind that you are trying to build their reading skills and strategies.
•    Show the cover of the book. Ask children what they think the title might be and what the story will be about.
•    Offer details. Provide information about the story’s setting and characters.
•    Don't forget the illustrations. Discuss the illustrations and how they relate to the story.
•    Pose questions. Ask questions to encourage children to think about why events may have happened the way they did; why people in the story behaved in a certain way; what the children would have done the same or differently and why.
•    Make connections. Help children make connections between the events in the story and their own lives.

The same general guidelines Westminster’s education students use in reading aloud to young children can also be employed by parents at home, too, said Reed. But the underlying key: Read to children early and often.

“Even if a caregiver only has a few minutes and has only a few books, read and talk about a few pages at a sitting,” Reed said. “Look at the same book many times over and show children how to gently handle a book, how to turn pages, and how to track sentences from left to right by placing a finger under each sentence as it is read.  Encourage the child to ‘read’ the book on their own.”

Parents can learn other read-aloud techniques by checking out these helpful articles:

Raise a Reader: A Parent Guide to Reading for Ages 3-5

Read Together: Parents and Educators Working Together for Literacy

For more information about checking out a book at McGill Library, visit For more information about Westminster College’s education program, visit