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Sub’s video book teasers get high marks from viewers

Byron Center — When he couldn’t visit his grandchildren during the coronavirus pandemic, long-term substitute teacher Phil Blum and his wife, Susan, read to them over Zoom every Thursday night. 

A new book starts with the first chapter, so that’s where he started. 

“Reading the first chapter of a book might be a way to inspire students to check out a book they wouldn’t normally check out,” Blum said about his YouTube video series, The First Chapter with Mr. Blum

‘Watching the video makes it a lot more interesting, because it’s someone else’s voice and not just your own head.’

— fifth-grader Gibson “Gibby” Maines

Blum explored Nickels’ library for ideas, so students would have guaranteed access to the books he read in his videos.

“I thought to myself, how can I get some of these students to read books that inspire their imagination?” he said. “Some of the books in the library never get read, and there are some students who feel like they aren’t great readers.”

He also chose books that he’d read in their entirety with main characters he thought the students could relate to, he said. 

Substitute teacher Phil Blum created ‘The First Chapter with Mr. Blum’ videos to encourage students to read new books

Fifth-grader Gibson “Gibby” Maines became curious about the first chapter videos after Mr. Blum subbed in one of his classes. 

“I watched a few of his videos, and they make you curious about the rest of the story,” Gibby said. “I watched his ‘Wonder’ video and it made me want to read it and learn more about the different characters.” 

Gibby recommended the videos to his friends because he thought they might be helpful for those who struggle to get through the first chapter of a new book.  

“Watching the video makes it a lot more interesting, because it’s someone else’s voice and not just your own head,” he said.  

He added: “When I’m into a good book, it feels like I just watched a movie.”

Blum continues to make his videos using books he’s read and found in the school’s library. He also said making the videos got him back into reading more books, and he hopes it does the same for students.

“When kids are reading books that don’t have pictures, they can let the verbs, adverbs and adjectives create a mental image,” he said. “The mind will remember creative expressions and that will help them when it comes to writing.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter covering Byron Center, Caledonia, Godfrey-Lee, Kenowa Hills and Thornapple Kellogg. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News, covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry, before finding her calling in education reporting and landing at SNN. Alexis is also the author of a poetry chapbook, “Learning to Sleep in the Middle of the Bed.”


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