Dover sisters spread love of reading worldwide

Sisters Zaria and Hailey Willard of Dover go live on their Facebook and Instagram pages “Zaria X Hailey” around 8 every night and read a book of their choice to ensure that children fall asleep to a bedtime story. (Submitted photos)

DOVER — “If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s the power of using your voice.”

Sisters Zaria and Hailey Willard of Dover exemplify that quote by former first lady Michelle Obama by using the power of their voices to encourage children to read more by reading bedtime stories online to kids all over the world.

“My sister and I love to read,” said 13-year-old Zaria. “It can further your comprehension and it’s a good way to escape from life. We were already reading each night, but we thought it would be beneficial for children who may not have the same luxury.”

The sisters go live on their Facebook and Instagram pages “Zaria X Hailey” around 8 every night and read a book of their choice to ensure that children fall asleep to a bedtime story.

The sisters have been doing it is since February. Eight-year-old Hailey proclaims herself as the personality of the duo said the experience is fun.

“I mostly read Dr. Seuss books,” she said. “It takes me into a whole different world when I’m lost in the book. In the videos I shine. I get a chance to put my personality in the book and act out the characters. It’s really fun.”

Before they go live for the night, the sisters go to the Dover Public Library and pick out books — some they have read before and some they haven’t.

Zaria, 13, picks out books at the Dover Public Library that she and her sister will read to children at night.

“That’s our process,” Zaria said. “We also try to make sure we pick out books that have black characters for representation. Most kids like us don’t see that everywhere, so we try and make sure that is represented. Black people can be heroes too, so we just want to show that.”

The sisters said the idea to read online to other children came to them randomly one night.

“Our mom has been reading to us since birth and that, in my opinion, has helped me develop a love for reading,” Zaria said.

“My sister and I were lying in bed one night giggling about something when this idea came about. We presented the idea to my mom and she agreed it would be great.”

At first their mother Victoria wasn’t too sure about the idea, but later had a change of heart.

“I was hesitant at first because I really didn’t want them online,” Ms. Willard said.

“It’s scary. “People are mean sometimes with their comments on other sites and I didn’t want their faces online either. I just didn’t want them to go through that. But they convinced me to do it and I monitor everything so nothing gets out of hand.”

The sisters said the reception has been great.

“I like that people are waiting for us to go live every night and they expect it,” Zaria said.

Ms. Willard said she constantly gets messages from other parents or children asking them to go live each night.

“When we go on vacations sometimes they have to make videos in advance and post them,” Ms. Willard said. “If not, then people will message us asking why didn’t we go live or what happened to the video. People actually look forward to it.”

“The viewership is slowly increasing,” Ms. Willard added. “I feel as though not enough people know about it, so we’re trying to get flyers made and go to schools so that parents and kids know that this is going on.”

But the sisters’ love for reading doesn’t stop there. They’re writing a children’s book collection as well.

“It’s going to be about blended military families because that’s what my family and I are,” Zaria said. “We have a couple of book names. Everything has been going great so far.”

The sisters also plan to have read-aloud sessions at the Dover Public Library in the near future.

Hailey Willard, 8, of Dover, says she mostly reads Dr. Seuss books to kids. “It takes me into a whole different world when I’m lost in the book. In the videos I shine. I get a chance to put my personality in the book and act out the characters. It’s really fun,” she said.

“I’m so proud of them,” Ms. Willard said. “I read a lot growing up and it always just took me away as to what I was dealing with at the time.So to see that same passion for reading has rubbed off on them is a great feeling.”

“Zaria is also working on a financial workbook that will teach kids how to write a check and balance a checkbook. It’s what they used to teach us in school and they don’t teach it anymore so she’s looking forward to that as well.”

“I just want them to be great,” Ms. Willard added. “I had so many great ideas growing up and my parents never fostered it, so I try to make sure I do that with them.”

But for now, the sisters are enjoying every moment of using the power of their voice to inspire children all over the world.

“We hope by reading to kids online it will encourage them to read more,” Zaria said. “We hope it will help raise the reading statistics in Delaware. We want children to know that reading is fun to do. We really enjoy it.”

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment