It's Belinda George's first year as a principal at Homer Drive Elementary in Texas, and she's already crushing it. The 42-year-old principal, not knowing if all of her 680 students are read to at home every night, wanted to ensure that they had at least one bedtime story — so in December she started "Tucked-in-Tuesdays," during which she hops onto Facebook Live in her pajamas to read a book around 7:30 every Tuesday night. And it's her students' favorite topic of discussion on Wednesday mornings.
"I don't know if they are read to or not at home," Dr. George told The Washington Post of her students. "The bottom line is I love, love kids. I know if I don't reach them outside of school I never reach them in school."
When filming the videos, Dr. George gets into her pajamas — like a Cookie Monster onesie or Dumbo PJs — and waits a bit for her students to tune in with their parents. In her most recent video from Feb. 26, a pajama-clad Dr. George read Astronaut Handbook by Meghan McCarthy, accompanied by an actual (inflated) astronaut. And as with every book she reads, she shared with parents the book's level (this one was a 5.2, or aimed at a fifth grader in the second month of school), as well as the information for the Accelerated Reader program (AR), like its point value (calculated depending on how difficult of a read it is) and its quiz number (each book has a short quiz to test the reader's comprehension of the book).
And her students — a majority of whom come from economically disavantaged homes — are already seeing some growth. Last year, the school's literacy test results "showed that an average of just 55 percent of her third, fourth, and fifth graders were reading on or above grade level." Now, kids are watching her read, answering the questions she poses during her reading, and coming into school the next day wanting to discuss the book with her. She says her videos are promoting both literacy and family time.
"Anything I can do to build relationships," she said. "If a child feels loved, they will try. There's no science about it." Check out Homer Elementary's video page to watch Dr. George's reading videos with your own kids.