Children’s book author Theodor Seuss ‘Ted’ Geisel inspired Freedom Elementary School special education teacher Jaimie Johnson to organize and present virtual Story Time Yoga in partnership with Bullitt County Libraries.
“As Dr. Seuss said, ‘The more you read, the more you’ll know. The more you know, the more places you’ll go,’ Johnson referenced. “Literacy is a key component of leading a successful life and reading has always been a focus for me as an educator, mom, and literacy advocate at Usborne Books & More. The same is true for yoga. Being a teacher of nine years and a mom, I see the impact of stress, trauma, anxiety, overwhelm, etc. on children every day. The need for mindfulness has always been important, but even more so now than ever as children face different challenges and growing expectations.”
Johnson feels as children need to learn to read, they also need to be specifically taught how to self-regulate, manage their emotions, and move their body in a healthy way.
“I have two boys, ages 5 and 3, and we were at the library often during the summer,” she said. “During the pandemic, we obviously weren’t able to do that so we started doing read alouds with our Usborne books together and then started getting creative with them.”
At the same time, she was doing virtual kids yoga classes. Her oldest son started asking to make up yoga poses to go with books that they had read which led to videotaping the poses for fun. She then contacted the library and Story Time Yoga was created as a community outreach.
Johnson videotapes herself reading the book and then videotapes each of the pose sequences that she plans for the book.
“I then merge the yoga pose sequences into the story at the appropriate times and send that finished recorded video to the library,” she explained.
Story Time Yoga is advertised for ages 2 - 8 on the library Facebook page but Johnson said it can be for any age range.
“Younger kids can do it with the help of parents,” she described. “It is never too early to introduce reading, movement, and breath to your child! I have also gotten feedback that adults are enjoying the videos as well. It provides an opportunity to play and move in a fun way, for any age!”
Johnson records sessions that will be posted each Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. Story Time Yoga can be accessed via this link then clicking on the Facebook icon: https://bcplib.org/
Johnson said parents are excited to have this free resource available to them to teach their kids these important literacy and mindfulness skills in a fun way.
“They also like that they can play the video at any time that works for them, instead of having to log on at a specific time,” she said.
Johnson became certified in yoga by attending a training at 502 power yoga.
“It is a 200 hour certification, which took a considerable amount of time and energy,” she said. “We met over the course of five months for long weekends. Training is a combination of reading, inquiry work, practicing yoga, meditation, studying anatomy and history, and more. It was the best thing I’ve ever spent my time and money on!”
For Story Time Yoga, Johnson reads a few pages at a time and then has kids stop to do the yoga sequence that matches up with the story before continuing on.
“We usually always stop with some type of breath and calming activity at the end,” she said. “As a children’s yoga teacher, my goal is to empower children to express their needs, practice self-love, exhibit self-control and manage their emotions in healthy ways through mindfulness and movement.”
One of her goals as an educator is to build a love of reading and confidence.
“I benefit from seeing children grow in these areas and connecting with my community in creative ways,” she reflected. “My own children are also able to see the work that I am doing to share this with our community; therefore, I believe they are learning the importance of community contribution.”
If COVID-19 and social distancing restrictions are lifted, Johnson would like to eventually be able to present Story Time Yoga in-person.
She also instructs family classes at Omies Yoga studio in the Highlands. The new studio is opening in September and that will allow her to do in-person classes there.
“I also plan to offer a weekly virtual yoga class for the students at Freedom Elementary,” she said. “We had a great turnout for this at the end of the school year, during NTI.”
Johnson has worked with Freedom Elementary counselor Brittney Reid over the past two years to organize a mindfulness club at our school.
“She has shared what we are doing with other schools and has shared the Story Time Yoga videos with them as well,” Johnson said.