Hi everyone! I’m Chris Miller, the librarian who organizes most of the programs for kids and teens at Coquitlam Public Library. In this post, I would like to introduce you to one of our signature programs: Reading Buddies.
Reading Buddies is a paired reading program, which means it involves two people reading together, in this case a teenager and a child. Teens are in high school; kids are usually in gr. 1, 2, 3 or 4.
Before COVID-19, meetings were in-person at our library branches. When the teens and kids arrived, we matched them together, then let them browse our collections for something to read.
When the virus hit, everything changed. We knew we could no longer run in-person meetings because there was no way to physically distance participants. Meetings wouldn’t have been safe. However, we soon realized that the videoconference platform Zoom would allow us to replicate many features from the in-person program, but in a safe, virtual environment.
We ran some test meetings in early June, then expanded the program. Participants received Zoom meeting invitations. At the meetings, I assigned pairs to private spaces called Breakout Rooms. Inside each of these virtual “rooms,” a teen and child could choose books and read together. Sometimes kids chose paper books to read – favourites from their bookshelves at home – but most of the time, they found electronic books, which are available for free through the library. I went back and forth between the rooms to make sure they’d found things to read, and that the technology was working.
Aside from Breakout Rooms, the key feature was a Zoom command called Share Screen. Using Share Screen, buddies can view the same page in an electronic book so that teens can follow along as the kids read, or vice versa.
There are challenges from time to time, but generally speaking, the transition has been smooth.
It has been wonderful to see our keen participants again – kids and teens – even if it is just through on-screen video. Believe me, I look forward to running the program inside our libraries again at some point in the future. However, for the time being, we’ve found a way to make the program work in a virtual format, and I couldn’t be happier!
Meetings for our newest session are every Tuesday and Wednesday starting on Aug. 11 and 12. Note that we’re happy to accept new registrants even after the program begins. Application forms are available through our web site.
If you have questions about Reading Buddies, or any other programs for children or teens, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org