Being in the hospital can be an emotional, confusing, and lonely time, especially for children. But two Montreal fourth graders are helping bring smiles to young patients — one story at a time.
The idea to offer personalized storytimes to hospitalized children was the inspiration of William Ghattas and Ella Schnitzer. During the pandemic’s first lockdown, they created a two-person book club to encourage each other to read.
After a friend of Ella’s family asked for book title requests for their hospitalized child, Ella’s mother Ashlee Wismach decided to record her daughter reading a story and then sent it to the child.
“It gave so much joy to that particular child,” said William’s mother MJ Blais. “The video was personalized by Ella with a little message of ‘hello, I hope you’re doing well and I hope you enjoy this book club.’”
That video sparked the idea of creating a website offering free videos to other kids in hospitals, undergoing treatments, or with long-term care needs. WEread2U (WE stands for William and Ella) was launched in April 2021 and since then, approximately 50 books have been recorded and shared with children, most recently at the Montreal Children’s Hospital through a collaboration with the Just For Kids Foundation.
To obtain a video recording, fill out a form on the website and include a book genre preference. “William and Ella will each go to their own personal libraries and select a book accordingly,” Blais says. “It’s all books that they enjoy. They like to record silly books and ones where they can make voices for the different characters.”
Within about a week, a private link with the personalized video is sent to the child. With friends of both children willing to help with reading books and creating videos, WEread2U is hoping to connect with more organizations and hospitals to offer the service.
For more information, visit weread2u.org.