Linking Libraries

Read about Story Safari in Spotsylvania County, a program where high schoolers create audiobooks of picture books for younger students, boosting reading skills in a fun way.

Amidst the bustling halls of our interconnected high school and neighboring elementary campus, a remarkable partnership emerged between library staff, educators, and students, leading to the inception of the innovative Story Safari program in our school district. Below I offer background on the program and ideas for bringing the Story Safari program to your school!

The collaboration between library staff and Economics and Personal Finance teachers blossomed into a fantastic partnership with our neighboring elementary school. Recognizing the need for high school students to fulfill community service hours for graduation, we leveraged our shared campus to create abundant opportunities for collaboration and service. Thus, the Story Safari program was born.

As high school librarians, we had two primary objectives: firstly, to offer our students an engaging community service activity without overwhelming time commitments, and secondly, to ignite a passion for books and reading in our elementary school peers through a dynamic and interactive approach. Our solution? Empower older students to borrow picture books and transform them into audiobooks for younger students, fostering their listening and reading skills in an enjoyable way.

Here’s how we did it:

  1. First, we met with the elementary school librarian to brainstorm ideas and to set up a time for our interested students to visit.  We decided to go with an animal theme, and dubbed the program “Story Safari.”
  2. We created a Google Form for interested students to sign up. Additionally, we advertised on the morning announcements and made the form available in the library, on our website, on the school website, and on our Canvas page.  We then held a meeting for the students to explain the program goals in person.
  3. We visited the elementary school for about an hour so that our students could 1) read with a 4th-grade class that day and 2) check out an animal picture book they wanted to narrate. The students enjoyed the visit and it was essential to choose only books that the elementary library already owned (this is the only way they could be checked out).
  4. I created a Flip classroom for our students to record themselves narrating their chosen picture book(s).  They could choose whether to do audio only or record a video of themselves reading.  Once they recorded their book, they returned it to us in the library.
  5. I uploaded their Flip narration into a Google folder and created a QR code linking to their recording. I attached the QR code to the front of the book. (The Flip classroom is only available to our participating students, and the narrations are only available through our county’s Google Drive; nothing is posted to websites or available to the public. Additionally, we will delete the Flip classroom and the narrations in May).
  6. I visited the elementary school several times a week to return the books ready for the younger students to check out.  The elementary librarian created a display highlighting the “audio” books.  
  7. After about two months of this, we returned to the elementary school for a celebration.  We visited the elementary school and any of the 3rd and 4th graders who checked out our narrated stories were invited to come meet their high school “readers” and then read to us!  We also had a surprise for the younger students: all the participants were given a book to keep (we had them donated)!

We ALL enjoyed this activity so much!  The only thing it cost us was time, which is what we wanted to give anyway.  Our students are begging to do this again, but next time to start at the beginning of the year and continue throughout.  We have some ideas to expand the program to include more of our students. Here are a few thoughts we have:

  • Find a way to have art students create original drawings to go with the books when they are displayed at the elementary school.
  • We have a button maker…is there a way to make buttons for the younger students?
  • Could our students include a note inside the book where they write about their favorite part of the story?
  • Could the elementary students write about their favorite parts and/or compose thank-you notes?

All in all, it was such a fun way to encourage reading, celebrate community,  and link our two libraries!  By the way, eMediaVA has a bunch of Reading Rainbow book narrations!

Tammy Byram is a librarian in Spotsylvania County Public Schools and an eMediaVA Ambassador. If you have any questions about setting up a Linking Library in your division, you can contact us at

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