At Duke Manor Apartments in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, it's not uncommon to see Little Red Riding Hood or the Big Bad Wolf roaming the property's community space.
The character visits are part of Story Time, a reading program for children ages 5-10 living in HDC MidAtlantic developments. The program was designed to improve reading skills, while also providing a safe and structured environment that encourages good behavior, respect for others, and a love of books and learning.
Story Time is not your typical reading circle. Betty Good, HDC MidAtlantic Resident Services Coordinator and Story Time's supervisor, designed the program to engage students through a creative approach to reading. Stories are typically acted out in theatrical fashion, featuring cleverly designed sets, guest readers and visits from the book's characters. Each Story Time session features a word of the day to help the children apply the featured book's premise to their own lives. When applicable, two books are read aloud to explore each side of a story—for example, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" and "Goldilocks Rocks." By exploring different themes and viewpoints, children are taught empathy, which helps prevent bullying in their homes and at school.
"Story Time is so much more than reading! It's another opportunity to not only build their learning skills, but to build character as well," Good says.
The program includes light snacks and take-away items related to the topic and theme of that day's story. Some of the items are practical, like toothbrushes or hand sanitizer—which they received after reading "Curious George Goes Camping." Some are silly, like the glasses with a nose that blows snot bubbles that the children took home after learning about the human body. When possible, children are given a book to bring home to add to their own library. The goal is for the children to read and take home 20 books a year.
Created in 2015, Story Time evolved from another educational program Good oversaw called Family Time, which is geared toward preschool-aged children and school readiness. However, participation declined as the children graduated from the program. Good realized she needed to revamp the program with a new focus on school-age children. She built on the tools and tactics she learned while collaborating with a local educator and consultant, and developed Story Time. Since its implementation, more than 20 children have participated.
The first Story Time explored "Dumbo." Other books and stories have included classics like "The Three Little Pigs," fairytales such as "Jack and The Beanstalk" and modern books like "Spoon."
Story Time takes place every Wednesday and Thursday afternoon throughout the year. Learn more about Story Time and other HDC MidAtlantic initiatives online.