When the coronavirus pandemic forced Brad Scott to shift his Long Beach-based therapy sessions online, he knew he would have to be more creative to engage his youngest clients.
“I’ve been seeing how much stress kids have been holding onto and I wanted to do something where they could just show up and use their imagination and creativity,” said Scott, who practices marriage and family therapy through his company One Gift Group.
These stressors range from witnessing family members fighting at home to being left without organized activities.
That’s when Scott thought of offering a free weekly online storytime session with Black men via Zoom that he called, “Night Night: Bedtime Stories by Black Men.”
Scott said he chose reading because it not only serves to produce conversations about trauma during in-person play therapy sessions but because of his own fond memories of heading to the former North Neighborhood Library on Orange Avenue.
“Every time they had storytime in that little room, I would love storytime as a kid,” Scott recalled.
While that library is currently used as a temporary homeless shelter, Scott said he loves the new Michelle Obama Library as well, a place he would frequent during grad school. The idea of having Black men reading these books came about from not having many of those interactions as a child, either at school or the library.
“I have maybe two instances in elementary school where Black men actually showed up for storytime and they were noteworthy for me,” Scott said. “I was just fascinated with the idea that a Black man was making silly noises and making faces and willing to be vulnerable in that way.”
Scott said he enlisted his friends to fill those roles, allowing them to choose the books they would like to read. One friend read his daughter’s favorite book, while another will read a book he wrote, “They Say We Don’t.”
Scott read “Imani’s Moon” last Wednesday after putting out a call for requests online. During his session, his father, a jazz guitarist, provided background music while Scott read aloud.
So far, two reading sessions have taken place with two more scheduled in June. Scott hopes to continue through the end of the year. The sessions last about 30 minutes and start at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays. While there aren’t any books readily available to address issues like the pandemic or the Black Lives Matter protests, Scott said these conversations may come up if children address them.
The next session will take place on June 17 at 7 p.m. To participate, register online for free here.