Dowagiac Union Schools offering virtual read-aloud series

DOWAGIAC — Just because schools are no longer meeting in person does not mean that students’ literacy improvement is halted.

After schools across Michigan were mandated to close until Monday, April 13 in the most recent order issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Dowagiac Union Schools got creative in how it would reach its students.

Katrina Daiga, the director of state and federal programs at Dowagiac Union Schools, wears many hats. Daiga is also a reading recovery teacher leader and the kindergarten through fifth grade English language arts administration chair. Since Dowagiac’s school closure, she kicked off a virtual read aloud series. Her first reading, “There’s Lots that I Can Do” by Kathleen M. Harte, began with a YouTube video and a link uploaded to the district’s website on March 17.

“Being a literacy leader in the district, I think it is important to have good and rich examples of books for students, whether they are on-site or at home,” Daiga said. “This is a way that we can reach all those through social media.”

Daiga said she plans to have different readers each day, including teachers and other staff who have volunteered to record and read aloud a book that can be shared with students.

In her role, Daiga facilitates discussions with administration talking about needs through literacy learning, how students continue to process, and helping teachers understand challenges they might come across with students who are struggling to read and write.

“I help with the organization of Title I programing and at-risk programming,” Daiga said. “Those funding sources, that come along with that from the feds and states, I help facilitate [with] buildings on best programming and how they can approach getting what their students need, and their teacher supports that they need to have a big impact on students.”

Daiga has created a private YouTube channel and sent information to parents and Dowagiac Union Schools’ community on where she is uploading the read aloud videos. After investigating, she had publishers reaching out advising her to post them in a closed group.

As more teachers and volunteers record read-alouds, Daiga hopes students will be able to log in to the YouTube group and choose from a list of available books read by some of their own teachers.

Currently, Daiga has about 10 to 12 recordings to upload and add to the growing list.

“It’s the teacher’s choice what book they choose and their approach,” Daiga said. “We just want to make sure we have some great examples of read-alouds and that kids can enjoy listening to stories when they are not at school.”

On her first uploaded read-aloud, Daiga received more than 170 views. She hopes to continue to use feedback submitted on the page.

“The number of subscribers to our channel would be good feedback of the interest there,” she said. “Also, the comments that are on the Facebook page and the shares we’ve gotten.”

Overall, Daiga hopes the read-aloud series will engage students in good literature and possibly intrigue students to search out books they do not already have at home.

“These books might provide examples of what they want to expand their own home library with,” she said.