Closures and safety procedures have changed routines during the coronavirus pandemic, and we are missing things we used to love to do. For Adam Greene, one of the things he loved was reading books to students at Woods Services’ Gardner Education Center three days a week and for children at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in nearby Fairless Hills two Saturdays a month. Volunteering to read aloud is something Adam, a resident of Woods’ Beechwood NeuroRehab program, has been doing regularly for several years.
“It has been absolutely a pleasure for me because I love to read the books that I do, and I love even better to see the kids enjoy the stories I’m telling,” Adam said.
Prior to the pandemic, Adam would spend whole days going from classroom to classroom at the education center, Adam’s occupational therapist, Samantha McKenna, MS, OTR/L, CBIS, said. Teachers and students welcomed him into the classroom and also invited him for lunch, which enabled him to spend more time in their company, Adam shared.
Samantha noticed Adam was feeling disconnected and disappointed when, in March, due to COVID-19 precautions, these visits ended. Now, his interactions were limited to his two roommates, the staff in his residence, and the therapists. “He just wants to see people,” she said.
She thought, what if we did the reading online in order to give him a productive routine? Thanks to her creative idea for using technology, Adam’s volunteering started a new chapter.
Now Adam’s routine includes setting the scene in his at-home studio by closing the blinds to make his space is camera-ready and sitting in what he and Samantha call his “Mr. Rogers chair.” Where he once chose books from the school library or received recommendations from the Barnes & Noble staff, he now selects from among a stack Samantha took the lead in gathering from other therapists. Samantha video records Adam reading and sharing the pictures from the books and then facilitates posting the online storytime to the Woods Facebook page.
Adam’s book choice for his debut recording on June 3 was “But Not the Armadillo” by Sandra Boynton. He’s also read “Children Make Terrible Pets” by Peter Brown, “The Foolish Tortoise” by Richard Buckley and illustrated by Eric Carle, and two books by Dr. Seuss – “Oh, the Thinks You Can Think” and “Great Day for Up.”
His online reading also included a poem by Joyce Alcantara titled “You Will Never See Me Fall.” Adam has an interest in poetry and is currently working with Samantha on writing a poem. “It’s fun because I have a poem that I wrote when I was a younger person. That’s what started my love for poetry,” he said.
While Adam waits to get back to the in-person reading, which he admits he would like best, he acknowledges one of the successful outcomes of moving forward this way is something that Samantha has shared with him. “I know it goes out to a wider number of people and more people get to see me and hear my speaking,” he said.
Four months since his online storytime debut, his 10 recordings combined have received more than 7,100 views, 1,200 engagements (like, love and care emojis as well as comments and shares), and have been shared more than 50 times, including by Adam’s family and friends, Woods staff, and on the Facebook pages of Archway Programs, Beechwood Clubhouse, Beechwood NeuroRehab, and the Langhorne Borough government page. Samantha relays the Facebook feedback with Adam while they are out on walks together and reads him the comments from each post. He noted it is so pleasant to hear the names of the teachers again and remember their times together face-to-face. Clinically, Samantha added this has helped Adam with emotional regulation at a time when it’s needed more than ever.
The joy he gives back to the online audience is evident. Among the praise he received is this comment from Facebook user Jeanine Beverly who wrote on his debut post, “Adam, thank you for my brighter-because-of-you day! It really is what you are best at.”
Then, on a recent post, Mindy Ellen Goldstein commented: “Awesome!!! Thank you for sharing this!!!”
Adam replied: “This is what I love to do.”
See below for links to Adam’s storytime posts on the Facebook page, and like Woods Services on Facebook for future read-alouds. Woods has started posting the text for the books to make the online storytime accessible to those with hearing challenges.