CLAREMONT — Like many teachers, Samantha Torres, an early childhood educator in Claremont, doesn’t leave her vocational identity in her classroom. When learning that her preschool program at the One-4-All Child Care center was closing as part of the statewide coronavirus response, Torres grabbed a book and a digital tablet and — each night this past week — continued story time with children online.
“It’s a way for them to still have that connection to school,” Torres told the Eagle Times. “I wanted to make sure they could still see my face everyday, know that I’m still out here and that wherever they are they can watch and read a story.”
One-4-All is a non-profit center that provides early learning and child development services and support for parents and school-age youth. Enrollment is referral-based through local family services providers such as Pathways, Turning Points Network, West Central Behavioral Health and the Department of Child, Youth, and Families.
Torres teaches a class of 11 preschool children between ages three to five. One-4-All also has a second classroom for infants and children under three.
“Our kids are pretty little,” Torres said. “So I’m not sure if they understand why they’re having so many stay-home days, or why they’re not going to school to see their friends or their teacher.”
Though admittedly lacking in technological prowess, Torres knew her way around Facebook quite well, she said. On Monday night, she streamed her first video, announcing to families that each school night around 7 p.m. she would read a new story. Thursday night was her fifth video, where she read a book about pizza at the request of one of her students.
Torres said her story-reading is meant for any children to enjoy, not just her own students.
“The videos are getting shared a lot,” she said. “Which I encourage, because who doesn’t enjoy a good story?”
Her first video on Monday, where she read “How to Catch a Leprechaun” by Adam Wallace, amassed around 800 views, between friends and family members and perhaps multiple views from some children.
“I’ve had parents message me that their kids are watching multiple times a day, and that they’re really happy they can still get stories from me,” Torres said.
Sometimes she’s selected a story to reinforce a classroom lesson. On Tuesday, she read “Those Mean Nasty Dirty Downright Disgusting But Invisible Germs” by Judith Ann Rice, a story about the importance of hand-washing. Torres said that before the closure, she had been working on hygienic practices with her students.
Torres has also used her videos to share tips to parents, such as what kind of learning activities they should be doing with their children during the school closure.
“I don’t want them to think that they have to sit down and have formal preschool everyday,” Torres explained. “Because preschool should be about play and open-ended learning. Getting them to play with their kids is the purpose.”
In Tuesday’s video, Torres recommended that parents of preschoolers play and interact with their children, which can include reading together, doing puzzles or coloring.
Torres’s videos can be found on the Facebook page, “One-4-All.” She says that anyone is invited to watch or share these videos, and that she plans to keep doing story-night until schools resume.
“I’m going to do it every night, until I run out of books and start them all over again,” she said. “But I have a lot of books at home, so luckily I am well stocked.”
In addition to her work at One-4-All, Torres teaches a Ready for Kindergarten class in the Claremont School District.
“Even though [their kids] can’t go to school, maybe parents can get some familiar books, or encourage their kids to read to them too,” she said. “A lot of these kids love to read in the classroom, and I don’t want them to not read during this time.”