Sharing YouTube Books: Good or Bad?
We want to do everything we can to encourage our students to read. You know what is going to make them better readers? Reading. What will make them want to read? Exposing them to great writing. So when my principal brought me the idea of making videos of our teachers reading bedtime stories, our favorite books maybe, and sharing them to our Facebook page at first I was all for it. I LOVE the idea. (Present tense, I DO love the idea). That same day a teacher tagged me in a Facebook post (see below) with the same idea. She was already onboard and we had not even presented the idea to teachers. It is a GREAT idea, especially for kids like those in my Title 1 school who may not have anyone reading them a bedtime story. Maybe their parents would at least show them the video of someone reading a book, and a real hope is that it would inspire that parent to read them another book. Who doesn't want that? Kids DO deserve bedtime stories, please do not misinterpret this post....I LOVE the idea.
The problem is copyright. I am no copyright expert, but I do aspire to be an author. As an author, I don't want you reading my book on Facebook or YouTube. I want you to buy the book. It has taken me a LONG time and LOTS of hard work to get it published. If you can just watch it on YouTube, why spend money buying my book? Sure a few people MIGHT be inspired to purchase a copy, but likely it is more sales that I lost. I do believe that it is wrong, a copyright violation, to read and post a public video of anyone reading an entire book. When this came up in the librarian's groups many suggested posting to a PRIVATE group: SeeSaw, a Facebook Group, shared on Google Drive, password protected, etc. Like I said, I am no copyright expert but I think this is a very gray area and I do not want to do that because it is still wrong in spirit.
Then I started thinking a step further, should teachers be SHOWING videos of books from YouTube? It is one thing for a parent who would otherwise not read anything, and does not have books to read, to watch these videos..... but teachers? My teachers have options. We have a well stocked library, we have big books galore and textbooks. I have been quietly saying, "please let me get you the book instead" for years; but last week I finally put it in writing and begged teachers to STOP. Stop showing YouTube videos of reading. This is what I said to my teachers:
"Please. Read the book instead. This is going to be my plea this year. For EVERY book.
Not only is it a poor practice to model reading for our students (and should only be used as an absolute last resort if you have NO other options, including substituting another book) but it completely violates copyright and showing that to our students as acceptable is a bad practice on our parts. If you need help finding the right book, please let us know! That is what Monica and I are here for!
Kids need to see us READING the book. Turning the pages, watching our mouths form the sounds, stumbling over words, thinking aloud, using strategies to be a better reader, and adding little things to the book. They need to see OUR enthusiasm for that book. I think by pressing play on a youtube video we are sending more unconscious messages to students than we realize and I am trying to encourage all teachers to STOP this practice."
It is that last part that is the most important for teachers to understand. Kids deserve teachers reading to them if at all possible. Showing them how to read. Showing them how good readers read. Adding THEIR thoughts and thinking and enthusiasm. I know there are decent YouTube readings out there, but they are not YOU. They are not making connections (a strategy of good readers) to what happened in the book you read last, or something that happened in your classroom yesterday. They are probably taking a few takes to get the best version they can with no mistakes. I read aloud to kids daily, I am a real reader. I make mistakes and show students strategies to fix that. It is all a part of modeling to be a good reader. Also think about what message you are sending by pressing play, walking away to do a quick task, and then coming back to your students VS putting all of your focus into them and that book. What is the unconscious message? What do kids deserve?
So what are WE going to do? We are going to read real books, or big books, as often as possible, and it is my job as a librarian to help teachers get those books. I am here to remind them that the book selection might also be found int their textbooks. In rare cases when we absolutely cannot find the needed book and no substitute can be found (that is another big part of my job: helping teachers find other books that might substitute for the desired title), we will look into legal online options. After reading this you might be surprised to learn I am a HUGE fan of TumbleBooks, BookFlix, Storyline Online, and Epic Books! These are all electronic options that do not violate copyright and great versions of the book with students.
We are making it a goal to make and share a video about reading every day in October. We will not share an entire book, we will not violate copyright. We WILL share our love of reading. We will let kids see us telling them about our favorite books. We hope parents and kids will seek out those books, and books in general to read. I am going to send EVERY K-5 student home with 3 books and remind parents that they are welcome to come into the library all day and checkout another 10. I am going to get books into their hands and hope to create real readers.