Pages through screens: ASU women’s basketball team reads books to children virtually

Having to keep students engaged virtually is a challenge, which is why the Arizona State women’s basketball team decided to participate in Read a Book Day. (Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

PHOENIX – ASU women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne reminisced of days when her elementary school teachers would read books like “The Chronicles of Narnia” to her during classes, something she said was “one of my favorite times of the day.”

She and the women’s basketball team recreated that experience with a now familiar twist due to the pandemic: reading books to children through video.

The ASU women’s basketball team partnered with the Washington Elementary School District on Sept. 6 for National Read a Book Day, delivering what is usually an in-person experience virtually.

Players and coaches on the team recorded readings of multiple books. The team then sent the recordings to the WESD to present to children virtually.

Despite having to record the readings instead of speaking in person, Turner Thorne said the act of community service “was a little bit of a return to normalcy, and just kind of feeling like you were doing something for somebody.”

Junior guard Gabriela Bosquez said the activity “was definitely a growing experience and just having to test out your creativity and just modify things.”

Turner Thorne said the team enjoyed giving back to the community in this way since they haven’t been able to perform as much service as they usually would due to the pandemic.

School districts must meet benchmarks set by the Arizona Department of Health Services for two weeks before returning to in-person instruction.

The benchmarks are set apart by “minimal,” “moderate” or “substantial” community spread. The levels of spread are defined by percent positivity rate, cases per 100,000 people and reported percentage of COVID-like illness in those areas.

The WESD, comprising 32 schools in North Central Phoenix and East Glendale, remains in the “moderate” category. Schools in the district will continue online distance learning at least through this week, district Superintendent Paul Stanton wrote in a Sept. 4 update.

Having to keep students engaged virtually is a challenge that Turner Thorne recognizes and understands how the Read a Book Day aids teachers in accomplishing that goal.

“Teachers across the country, and certainly in the Valley, just have to be creative right now, in terms of trying to help keep their students interested,” Turner Thorne said.

Bosquez echoed that sentiment, saying, “It just helps them (students) to get that one-on-one contact. At the end of the day, you have got to make it work.”

Turner Thorne said reading books to children still has “a ton of value,” adding it encourages them to read as well.

“Good old-fashioned reading a book, telling stories, it helps spur people’s imagination,” Turner Thorne said.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Jeffrey Horst is a San Diego native who expects to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. He is looking to pursue his master’s in journalism and is a digital reporter for Cronkite Sports.