Image by Annie Spratt from Pixabay

The global COVID-19 pandemic has brought disruption to nearly all aspects of daily life. For the 52 current and retired Boston College employees who participate in the University’s award-winning Read Aloud program, it meant school closings and the end to classroom visits with the students at St. Columbkille Partnership School and Thomas Edison K-8 School, both in Brighton.

But Read Aloud volunteer John O’Grady, facility operations manager in the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, found a creative way to stay connected to the second-graders at St. Columbkille. On his own, he recorded a video where he read aloud The Night Before St. Patrick's Day. He sent his virtual read aloud to SCPS second-grade teacher Kaitlyn Moran who shared O’Grady’s video via SeeSaw, the platform the school is using for students in grades PreK-3.

“The kids loved it!” Moran wrote in an email. She noted that SeeSaw is an interactive platform and the students responded to O’Grady’s virtual read aloud by writing that they loved the book or thought it was funny. Several wrote “thank you for reading to us.”

Others responded by uploading videos or pictures of leprechauns and leprechaun traps—ideas from the book.

JohnO'Grady reads 'Casey at the Bat'

John O'Grady of the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences turned to video so he could continue reading to the second-graders at Brighton's St. Columbkille Partnership School after the COVID-19 pandemic eliminated school visits.

O’Grady, who has been participating in Read Aloud for 19 years, said he was inspired by his daughter Alanna, a creative director at The Paint Bar who was using Zoom and Facebook Live to reach out to toddlers and school-aged children.

After learning that O’Grady had created a video, Read Aloud coordinator Laura Bitran of the Office of Government and Community Affairs emailed all the Read Aloud participants suggesting they create videos and send them to the teachers to share with students, after first contacting the teachers. Information Technology Services Assistant Manager Jon McGrath held a Google Hangout to help any readers needing assistance in creating videos.

“This a terrific demonstration of how we can create new possibilities in order to curtail the fear among us while also respecting social distancing,” said Bitran, who added that a number of other volunteer readers have gone on to create videos for their classrooms as well.

With support from Human Resources, Bitran has organized the Read Aloud program since its inception in 1995. She called O’Grady one of the “pillars” of the program. He has already created a second read aloud video for Casey at the Bat.

For O’Grady, the time he spends reading aloud to the students reminds him of when he and his wife would read to their own now-grown children. “The students really seem to appreciate and look forward to their sessions with the readers. They listen and ask good questions. I look forward to the time with them.”

Moran, who graduated from the Lynch School of Education and Human Development in 2016 and is now enrolled in graduate studies at the Lynch School, said she appreciated not only the work O’Grady put into creating the video, but also his care for the students.

“We know that the students are feeling a great deal of anxiety and uncertainty during this time,” she wrote. “Our goal is to provide the students with as much of a sense of normalcy, routine, and connection as possible. Sharing videos from BC Readers helps to increase that normalcy, routine, and connection and helps to provide a lighthearted distraction.”

Added Bitran: “It’s a way for us to show the children and our school partners that we have not forgotten them.”

Kathleen Sullivan | University Communications | April 2020