Part of a popular Benjamin Franklin recommendation is “early to bed.”
If that’s around 8 o’clock for students at his namesake school in Bethel Park, they have a special reason for looking forward to Thursdays.
In March, fourth-grade teacher K.D. Meucci began streaming her reading of bedtime stories on Facebook Live, and the weekly event has grown steadily in popularity among young viewers and Franklin Elementary staff members who want to participate.
“Once I started telling other teachers, they were really excited,” Meucci said. “Now we have a list of teachers who are upcoming readers.”
As for whose turn it is, that’s always a mystery Meucci said.
“I leak clues all week as to who the reader is going to be, and parents are on there guessing,” she said. “And then Thursday, it’s the big reveal.”
The first big reveal was for Franklin Principal Teresa Doumont, who read her favorite children’s book, Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are.” Other guests so far have included teachers Lindsay Crowley and Jessica Mahoney, featuring such selections as Marc Brown’s “Pickle Things” and, eminently fitting for a bedtime story, “Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book.”
Meucci said she’s asked her students for suggested reading, but so far they’ve declined.
“I think they’re interested to see who the mystery reader is and what that person’s going to pick,” she said.
Her selections have included some favorites of her 4-year-old son, Mario, such as Adam Rubin’s “Dragons Love Tacos” and titles in Mo Willems’ “Elephant and Piggie” series.
Mario, in fact, has been a participant in the weekly streams, to the delight of the students.
“They actually like him more than they like me on the video,” Meucci said. “That was the feedback I got: ‘We love your stories, Mrs. Meucci, but we really like Mario.’ Can’t blame you. He’s way cuter.”
Fourth-grader Owen Reither acknowledged he does enjoy Meucci’s son as well.
“Her son, Mario, sometimes will read parts of the book. He reads it in sometimes funny ways, which makes me laugh.”
Thursday night live, if you will, represents an extension of what K.D. and husband Mike usually do.
“Every night, we read to our 4- and 2-year-old “and it’s a cherished time in our family,” she said, including daughter Mila. “All teachers want their kids to read more and want their children to love reading. So I thought, what better way than to let them have a view into my world and what my bedtime looks like, and my sometimes rambunctious but rather lovable 4-year-old.”
Another one of her goals is to provide Franklin students with insight into her life as a person, beyond being a teacher.
“I kind of show them around the total disaster that is my playroom, and they laugh, “wow! Mrs. Meucci has a messy house, just like we do,’” she said. “Then I tell them stories about Mario and Mila, and they feel like they know my children.”
She said she plans to continue the events through the summer.
“By default, I can always be the reader. I’m doing a bedtime story, anyway,” she said. “And if people are on vacation, they can still watch our stories.”
Along with reading stories, Meucci enjoys the interactive aspect of Facebook Live, which allows her to see who’s logging in and give the applicable shout-outs. She also posts links to educational information that is beneficial to parents, especially with regard to reading.
As for her fourth-graders, they tend to favor a change of pace from the longer-form material they read as part of their studies.
“I like that we get to see some of her favorite books, and that we get to take a break from chapter books and go back to picture books for a night,” Sophia Willis said. “I think picture books are perfect for bedtime stories. Leaving off on one chapter and having to wait until the next night to finish it, I just don’t like it.”
Eric Miehl agreed, and he added a touch of nostalgia.
“I like how she picks her child’s favorite books, and sometimes they’re our favorites, too,” he said.