CONWAY — What started as a two-week way to feel connected with her students during the COVID-19 pandemic is now a nightly ritual for Dr. Aimee Frechette, principal of Pine Tree School in Center Conway, who began reading bedtime stories on the school’s Facebook page March 15 — and hasn’t stopped.
Frechette is scheduled to read book No. 150 on Sunday to her 400-500 followers.
“We haven’t missed a night and don’t plan to until we get back into the school for face-to-face learning,” said Frechette, 38, who has been principal since 2011 at Pine Tree, a school she attended as a child.
The first day of classes for SAU 9 has been pushed back to Sept. 8, which means Frechette will be on story No. 179 on the eve of the 2020-21 school year.
“When we started, I felt I needed to do something so I didn’t feel helpless. Now, it’s just become part of our day,” she said.
Frechette has had the occasional family member make a cameo visit during the stories, which typically run 7-10 minutes.
On the first night of the online stories, she garnered more than 17,000 views and things kind of took off from there.
“Just when I think people must be getting sick of it, I get an email from a family in Texas who say it’s something they all look forward to each night,” said Frechette, noting there have been many such emails.
In fact, U.S. Sen Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) “even reached out and thanked me for what I’m doing,” Frechette said.
She added she hopes Sen. Shaheen will make a cameo as a guest reader before school starts up again.
One thing Frechette has learned during this reading streak is “there are a lot of great children’s books.”
To keep track, she set up a spreadsheet listing each book. “I pick out a bunch of the stories, but a lot are recommendations from children or families. I don’t think we’ll run out of books between now and Sept. 8,” she laughed.
The nightly stories often have a lesson for listeners.
“I try to use it as an opportunity to teach from afar,” Frechette said. “We’ve read a book about (U.S. Supreme Court Justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg (‘I Dissent’), and have read books about character traits such as being kind and looking out for one another.”
After starting from home at the end of winter, as things warmed up, Frechette has taken storytime on the road. She has read from a pier in Rockland, Maine; from a paddleboard on Kimball Pond in South Chatham; from a paddleboat on Crystal Lake in Eaton; and for baseball’s opening day (July 24), she climbed atop a ladder with a replica of the famed Citgo sign at Fenway Park behind her at Maryann and Mike Lane’s home in Conway.
Frechette has even gotten into the spirit of some stories by wearing costumes. She donned a blue wig, stylish hat and scarf to read, “Fancy Nancy Poet Extraordinaire,” in order to “look fancy like Nancy.” She wore a Kennett ice hockey jersey for “The Magic Hockey Stick” and was in a full mermaid mode on a floating chair in a pool to read, “The Mermaid.”
Frechette isn’t sure what book to choose for No. 150 on Sunday.
“I’ve been saving a great Seuss book, ‘Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!’ which might be the choice, but people will just have to tune in (on Facebook at 7 p.m) to find out,” she said.
To tune in, go to Pine Tree Elementary School on Facebook.