Q&A with Broward County, Florida: Planning for a Virtual Read for the Record During Uncertain Times
Broward County, Florida has been one of Jumpstart’s longest and largest partners for its annual literacy campaign, Read for the Record. Each year, the team behind Broward Reads for the Record—which includes Broward County Public Schools and the Children’s Services Council of Broward—continues to expand and grow this initiative. In addition to providing every four- and five-year-old in Broward County with a copy of Jumpstart’s special edition of that year’s campaign book (over 40,000 copies distributed each year!), the annual celebration includes events, live readings, story walks, and much more.
This year, as the country continues to battle COVID-19, Broward County began planning for an alternative Read for the Record. Check out this Q&A with Sandra Bernard-Bastien, Chief Communications Office for the Children’s Services Council of Broward County, and the force behind this annual extravaganza.
What does Broward Reads for the Record typically look like?
Each year we make sure that every four- and five-year-old in Broward County will get a copy of the book. They get their copy after a volunteer / a guest reader comes into the classroom and reads the book to them. We prep our readers and volunteers on how to read the book. For weeks before, we are really hyping around the community so there is an excitement that is building around Read for the Record. Last year, we had 1,400+ volunteers in the classrooms.
What are you planning for this year?
This year, school will be virtual and so our event must be virtual. Our volunteers will sign up for a virtual reading of the book. Most—if not all classrooms in the Broward system—are using Microsoft Teams. So, on the morning of October 29, a volunteer will read “live” to a classroom. Our school is on a shift system, so the teachers will also record the readings in the morning for the afternoon sessions. The school system will ask its teachers if they are interested in adding this onto their day—and, then, as in years past, volunteers will be able to request a specific school or classroom. I have a school I go to every year, it’s Tamarac Elementary, so I will ask for that school. The big difference is the book distribution for this year.
How will you plan to distribute books this year?
We had considered a few options for distributing books but one of the challenges was that we would reach some but not all children. We thought about food distribution for example. Our practice has always been to give books to all four- and five-year-olds. Instead, we have decided we will wait until its safe for us to distribute the book in person. We will wait until school is reopened.
When did you decide to go virtual?
I had the experience of planning our back-to-school effort a few months ago, and we have been working from home since March. I also had the experience of volunteers and staff members through that being exposed to someone with COVID-19—and I realized absolutely, there’s no way we are going to allow for too much human-to-human contact. It just isn’t safe right now.
What are some of the challenges you anticipate?
The same challenge that we have in getting the books to children, we have that with our volunteers. We are hoping to be able to send electronic copies out. We have decided that we’ll lower our expectations for volunteers this year—we’re not sure we’ll hit 1,400. Families are busy trying to figure out how to pay rent and how to put food on the table. They have more higher-order needs and wants right now. We’re fully aware of that. However, we’re still going to do our best to generate a lot of excitement and hype because the most important thing is to generate excitement for early literacy for our children.
Is there anything else you are planning for this year?
The author, Meg Medina—along with Jumpstart—will also participate in a virtual conference this year through the library system on September 25. We are really looking forward to that because one thing she will share more about is the social-emotional content of the book. We are also going to ask cities to do story walks.
What are your plans for this year’s Read for the Record? Reach out and let us know by emailing email@example.com.