By CHRISTY WHEELAND
n hundreds of homes all across Wagoner, children are spending a portion of their week gathered around the computer or their parents’ cellular telephones to experience a “must watch” program.
At 7 p.m. each Tuesday, Ellington Early Learning Center Principal Stephanie Fleming opens the door to their imaginations by conducting a storybook reading on Facebook Live. The weekly session has been dubbed as “Tucked in Tuesday” and has become wildly popular.
Fleming dons footie pajamas, pulls her hair up, grabs a teddy bear and sits down on her bed with a children’s reading book. She sets her phone on a tripod in the middle of the bed and begins recording as she reads to an unseen audience.
She does so in order to enhance the efforts her teachers put into the classroom each and every day.
“We have an unbelievable environment at Ellington, my teachers are rock stars!” Fleming explained. “They go above and beyond every day to insure that Ellington is a place for learning and fun, a place where kids feel safe.
“I want to supplement what our students are learning every day from our amazing teachers. If I’m going to ask of these teachers that they go above and beyond for their students, then I have to lead in a way that goes above and beyond as well.”
Fleming said building relationships with parents and the community to show educators truly care about their children is essential.
She noted the original “Tucked in Tuesday” concept came from a Texas principal who worked at a low income district with very little parent buy in. She started the program so all of her students had the opportunity to be read to even if their parents didn’t do it.
Fleming thought it was a great idea.
“I didn’t do it for the same reason necessarily. I believe we have great parent buy in – our parents are very supportive and involved,” the principal said. “I did it more to show the kids how important reading is to me, and hopefully that would stir an interest in them.
“It is so important to read every night. Reading each night builds vocabulary and increases fluency, plus the quality time is immeasurable,” Fleming noted. “I want kids to know that I love them and I’m thinking of them even when we are not at school. I want kids and parents to see me in a different context – not just as the principal, but as a person that genuinely loves and thinks about their children and their well-being.”
She said taking time out of her evenings once a week to build relationships with her students and their parents is “so worth it and my absolute pleasure.” Her “Tucked in Tuesday” viewership has ranged anywhere from 200 to 1,000 on any given week during the fall semester.
“I love having kids tell me the next day they saw me on television and talk about the story. The program will definitely continue!” Fleming exclaimed. “The kids love it and I’ve had a lot of great feedback. Several people have even been so kind as to buy me books to read!”
In December, Fleming was invited to have a live reading at Miranda’s Cake House. Kids came in their pajamas and listened to stories while they enjoyed holiday treats.
“I love and so appreciate the parents and community for supporting me in this,” she said. “I want to share my love of reading with our students and, most of all, I want them to know how much I love them. Kids have to like school to want to go to school and they have to trust you before they can learn from you.”