During a time of crisis, heroes often emerge. Enter: Story Girl.
In response to the temporary closure of many preschools, day care centers and other early childhood programs across the state as part of mitigation efforts in the fight against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a professor at California University of Pennsylvania has channeled her alter ego to assist young children with their learning.
Dr. Clover Simms Wright, an assistant professor in the university’s Department of Childhood Education, has created a video series of children’s stories and other age-appropriate content as an educational resource for parents with children as they navigate working and educating from home during the closure of schools.
“I’m trying to create something for them where I could talk to the children and be their preschool teacher for a couple minutes of the day. I thought I could help children and parents that way,” said Wright, who spent 12 years teaching preschool prior to joining Cal U more than a decade ago.
“Once you’re a preschool teacher, it becomes part of your identity,” she said.
Wright began creating the videos, which are geared towards children ages 3-6, after widespread school closures occurred in mid-March, forcing many parents to assume responsibility of their child’s education.
In the short videos, which she is uploading to her YouTube channel regularly every two to three days, she reads a story and gives a prompt for a creative activity.
“As we start to educate our children at home, I remember back to when my boys were younger and needed a lot more guidance. My heart goes out to those parents who are juggling the stresses of working and making sure their kids are learning.
“In these uncertain times, everybody’s feeling anxious and stressed and it’s a really good time to share stories and reach out,” said Wright, who has three children.
“My kindergartener loves the stories. He’s my best critic,” she said.
In the videos, Wright takes on the persona of Story Girl.
“I think of her like a super hero that has the ability to make children feel calm and comfortable.
“I’m trying to make something that is safe entertainment for kids. I’m trying to be comforting, using my ‘teacher voice.’ Children in a preschool setting respond to that calm tone,” she said.
The videos will also benefit another group of students. Wright intends to use the series as a model for early childhood education students at Cal U on how to educate preschool children at home.
And she is aiming to engage children beyond just storytelling, with plans to make videos for creative arts and family cooking activities.
“I intend to keep this up until life as we know it returns to normal,” she said.
“It’s important that people keep in mind during this high-stress time when their children’s homeschooling might be baring down on them, that you should find ways to spend time with your kids — read to them, do activities with them, just find joy with them,” said Wright. “That will do everybody a little good.”
Wright’s videos can be viewed at www.youtube.com/channel/UCfbjJoKsumOT5pbFJcD2BXA or by searching YouTube for “Story Girl” using the channel filter.