Distance Read-Alouds

Many students are now learning at home due to COVID-19. For my elementary school students, storytime is an important and exciting part of the day. How will students hear books read aloud by their teachers and school librarians now? Educators can simply record themselves reading aloud stories and post the videos to YouTube and Facebook, right? Perhaps. The answer depends on an analysis of the four factors of fair use, in addition to the situation at hand – school is closed. During emergencies, fair use can be considered a bit more broadly. “One critical feature of copyright law is fair use, a flexible users’ right that allows the use of copyrighted works without permission. It accommodates a wide variety of circumstances, including new and rapidly evolving situations” (Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists, 2020, para. 3).

Intellectual property rights are so important that AASL’s Standards Framework for Learners has an entire domain devoted to the subject: Engage. For instance, school library standards state that learners are to use valid information and reasoned conclusions to make ethical decisions in the creation of knowledge by:
1. Ethically using and reproducing others’ work.
2. Acknowledging authorship and demonstrating respect for the intellectual property of others.

COVID-19 has brought forth many challenges, but also opportunities. We have an opportunity to model the ethical use of others’ work by how we share and credit information via distance learning.

So, can teachers and librarians use YouTube under these circumstances? Maybe. Some will always want to ask for permission to use a work that they feel may be unlawful even when fair use might allow the use. Asking for permission can be easy.

My wife teaches first grade in a neighboring school district. She was excited that her colleagues wanted to post read-aloud videos to their school’s Facebook page. My wife felt obligated to get permission from the author before video recording her read-aloud. She searched online for the author’s website to make a request to record herself reading one of his books. She explained in her message that the video would only be shared with students and parents. The author responded in less than 12 hours, generously granting permission to share his stories with students, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. My wife commented that she will use her correspondence with the author to teach first graders about fair use and intellectual property.

Asking permission can be difficult because it may be hard to determine who is the rights holder. And when libraries have acquired materials through a license agreement, the contract language associated with the work will govern your use. School librarians should review the four factors of fair use and limitations such as limiting access to the classroom or posting on a private YouTube site.

Scrolling through Twitter these past few days, I have come across several posts from authors granting permission of the recording of their books being read aloud.

Use the hashtag, #readaloudalert to find Tweets from authors granting permission to record and post videos of teachers reading their books for students while schools are temporarily closed. Emily Northcutt, Kentucky Association of School Librarians President, created a #ReadAloudAlert Wakelet with links to video resources created by authors and illustrators.

Free Read-Aloud Recordings

There are many FREE curated collections of approved read-alouds online. For instance, author Kate Messner’s website contains a collection of resources that include everything from first-chapter and picture book read-alouds (shared with permission from publishers) to drawing and writing mini-lessons.

The Story Time from Space website has videos of astronauts in space reading books to the children of Earth. The videos are placed under the heading ”Story Time Videos.”

Storyline Online is a children’s literacy resource featuring the world’s best storytellers reading books aloud. Each video includes an activity guide with lessons for K-5 students to do at home.

KidLitTV has created a virtual library of free read-alouds, drawing and writing tutorials, podcasts, art activities, and reading resources for kids!

Schools across the country are (or have been) faced with a very difficult decision—that is to temporarily suspend classes because of COVID-19. Fortunately, we live in a connected world where educational resources are readily available from any place that has Internet. We are even more fortunate to have the support and kindness of many authors and publishers who are letting teachers continue storytime (from a distance) with their students.

Works Cited:
“Public Statement of Library Copyright Specialists: Fair Use & Emergency Remote Teaching & Research.” 2020. https://tinyurl.com/tvnty3a
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