PHOTO: Rebecca Sevier, aka “Ms. Rebecca,” reads from a picture book during Story Time Live on May 20. Sevier was honored Friday at the Tiny Sprouts Academy graduation ceremony.
When COVID-19 stopped Victoria Public Library assistant Rebecca Sevier from visiting area day cares for storytime, she set to work making craft kits to send to the children she couldn’t see in person.
“I want them to know that I didn’t forget about them,” Sevier said. “I’ve been sending them crafts to help them stay busy and to help them remember Ms. Rebecca.”
Sevier—or “Ms. Rebecca,” as she’s known to the hundreds of Victoria children who’ve heard her tell stories and sing songs in person and through Facebook Live—was honored Friday at the Tiny Sprouts Academy graduation ceremony for her contributions to the education and growth of students at the day care throughout the past year.
“We truly appreciate her weekly visits,” said Melissa Helfer, director of Tiny Sprouts Academy. “The children are truly motivated and excited about reading because of her. They look forward to her visits, and it was a real downer when she couldn’t visit anymore. Even though she can’t be here physically, she’s still been with us through the projects that she sends them.”
Katie Talhelm, program services lead at the Victoria Public Library, said the library has provided outreach services in the past, but Sevier has transformed the library’s approach since she arrived late last year, connecting with more local organizations and increasing visits to child care programs.
“We used to visit day cares once or twice a week, and Rebecca goes four times a week,” Talhelm said. “We gave her the option of starting smaller, but she wanted to make sure the day care students were included since they can’t come to storytime at the library in the mornings. We’re planning to add more visits once things get back to normal.”
Since Sevier was hired, the library has gone from reaching 200-300 children outside of the library per month to 700-800 per month. In addition to helping day care students with early learning and kindergarten readiness, visiting the day cares gives Sevier a chance to invite children and their parents to the library.
“She’s doing a fantastic job,” Talhelm said. “I’m incredibly impressed by her passion and her drive to build relationships with local organizations and with the kids.”
Since the pandemic began, Sevier has provided hundreds of craft kits not only to her day care students but to summer camps that usually bring children to library activities during the summer.
“I wasn’t here last year, so when I heard that we normally have these summer camps that weren’t coming, I started putting together extra kits to send to them,” Sevier said. “I feel bad because this summer is completely different for them, and I want to do what I can to help. I also try to make sure that they’re aware of our virtual programs.”
One of those programs is Story Time Live, which is hosted through Facebook Live on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings by Sevier and other library staff. Parents are able to request shoutouts for their children, and Sevier also likes to acknowledge day cares that are watching the livestream.
“Whether it’s an individual or a day care, they get so excited when they hear themselves mentioned,” Sevier said.
Sevier said she’s motivated by the opportunity to connect with children and watch them learn and grow.
“I love seeing how their faces light up when they learn something new,” Sevier said. “Even the older kids—sometimes they’re not interested at first, but I reach out to them and their attitudes change. I’ve been told that the day care students love the craft kits, that they’re so excited to get something from Ms. Rebecca, and that keeps me going.”
For her next project, Sevier is providing “Completion of Storytime” certificates to the children who are leaving day care and will start prekindergarten or kindergarten this year.
“I want them to know that I am rooting for them to do great in elementary and hoping that they will come into the library for some of their school needs and remember to visit with Ms. Rebecca,” Sevier said. “I always let them know that I will be at the library to help them.”
To learn more about the Victoria Public Library’s programs, go to www.victoriatx.gov/public-library or visit the library’s Facebook page.