Reading Stories

READING STORIES
THINC Brings New Technology to Story Reading
by Denise Sullivan

HURLEYVILLE, June 2020 — “This is a story about something that happened long ago when your grandfather was a child.”

Elaine Corrington is reading aloud from “The Magician’s Nephew,” the first book in the classic Narnia fantasy series by C.S. Lewis. She is sitting in the middle of the green screen in the Digital Media Lab at THINC, the Technology Hub and Incubator at The Center for Discovery in Hurleyville. Bright studio lights shine on Elaine’s silvery hair as a video camera records her 30-minute session, which will be edited by adding pictures and transitions of turning pages.

She has a warm and calming voice, the kind of voice everyone needs to hear in stressful times. She prepares each chapter, making notes in the margins and highlighting lines where she will add theatrical effects. Dramatizing the reading of a book helps children and adults follow the emotion of the story, even if they don’t comprehend the vocabulary. Ms. Corrington believes that for some, the experience is like landing in a foreign country and hearing conversations in another language – most anyone can feel the emotion in a dialogue, so she makes sure to infuse her reading with lots of emotion.

Reading stories in The Center’s houses during off-work hours has been one of Ms. Corrington’s regular activities for years, when she isn’t working as Special Events Coordinator at TCFD. Sometimes she would play ukulele and sing for them. She is a familiar and comforting figure for many residents, and recording stories is a new way for them to see her, and a new way to provide the continuity of their regular weekly visits.

Julie Palmer, Project Coordinator at THINC, turns on the camera and leaves the room. The readers know that if they make a mistake, they can simply re-read a line and Ms. Palmer will work her post-production magic to keep a story flowing.

Besides editing mistakes, of which there are few, Ms. Palmer listens to each video story over and over, starting and stopping to insert pictures, creating meaning and context to complement the spoken words. For the Narnia book, she adds a scary attic, London row houses, and a field of daffodils. She finds photos from the book being read or uses stock photos to assist the story. Once the reading sessions are completed, she uploads them to the TCFD network and to Vimeo, where anyone can access the stories.
Jim Cashen, Chief of the Integrated Arts Department at TCFD, also reads stories to groups of residents. Before or after a meal, often an entire house of children and staff will gather to listen to a story reading, a calming scheduled activity that is especially engaging for the visually impaired. Mr. Cashen prefers shorter children’s books, kids’ poetry, and themes for stories – like the seasons, or Women’s History Month. His years as a reading teacher in Vermont trained him to find kids’ stories that match current events. And recording his story reading is part of a natural progression as TCFD staff members find new ways to create healthy activities for the fragile audience that they care for.
During long weeks of staying in houses without going to school or having family visits due to the coronavirus, some kids may develop elevated anxiety, in addition to the complex conditions that brought them to TCFD. So, Mr. Cashen found the book, “Ruby Finds a Worry” by Tom Percival. The perceptive and touching story is the perfect springboard for talking to children about emotions and managing feelings. And what Ruby finds out in the book is simple and reassuring – if you talk about your worry, it gets smaller.
At the THINC Lab, besides the many lessons, stories, songs and dance classes that are being recorded and edited, the production of PPE continues. As of press time, over 1300 face shields have been created and distributed to medical and direct care workers. The sewing of orange fabric surgical masks still happens daily, and 3300 have been assembled. They are available for all TCFD staff and their families.