Dr Belinda George, 42, films herself reading a children's book in her living room in her pyjamas every Tuesday evening, which anyone can watch on Homer Drive Elementary School's Facebook page.
She calls it “Tucked-in Tuesdays”, and they have become a sensation at her school.
“I don't know if they are read to or not at home,” said Dr George.
“Kids will come up to me Wednesday and say, 'Dr George, I saw you in your PJs reading!,” she said. “They'll tell me their favourite part of the book.”
After watching Dr George and listening to her animated character voices (and sometimes her funny asides) students will approach her to ask where they can find that book in the school library.
And it has begun to expand beyond Homer Drive Elementary School. Since Dr George has received some media attention, parents and children from across the country are starting to tune in, as well.
“Serenity is watching from Albuquerque, NM,” reads one comment on a post. “LOVE THIS!!!!!,” reads another commenter from Illinois. “Thank you for going out of your way for them!,” reads a third from Orlando.
Dr George says she does it to keep the relationship strong between home and school. And also because she adores her students.
“The bottom line is I love, love kids,” said Dr George, adding she does not have any of her own. “I know if I don't reach them outside of school I never reach them in school.”
Dr George started the readings in December for her 680 students. Some of her Facebook Live videos have received as many as 2,000 views. She said she wears pyjamas because she says good night to them at the end of the video, and she wants to be “true to what I'm saying”.
Each Tucked-in Tuesday begins with a roll call of sorts, as Dr George gives a shout-out to the students who have signed on and pop up on her screen. She has to be careful she pronounces every name correctly.
“They'll come in the next day and tell me, 'You're saying my name wrong,'” she said.
Her readings promote family time, she says, because parents watch along with students (she calls them scholars rather than students). It's also interactive because Dr George asks questions for the children to answer as she reads.
When she read the book “Ladybug Girl”, she slid on enormous ladybug wings and cuddled a large stuffed ladybug. The evening she read “Madeline's Christmas,” she had on a Cookie Monster onesie with the hood up.
There was a huge inflatable astronaut behind her last Tuesday as she read “Astronaut Handbook”. Dr George announces the reading grade level of each book, and her students can take an optional quiz about the book the following day as part of the school's reading comprehension curriculum.
The evening she read “Ladybug Girl”, she came to a page where Ladybug Girl's brother says she can't play with him because she's too small. Dr George paused and looked into the camera.
“How many of you have ever been told that you're too little to do something?” she asked. “I have three older sisters, and they used to tell me I was too little to do something.
“But guess what?” she asked with a glint in her eye. “I did it anyway.”
Her audience laughed along with her.
Dr George said 94 per cent of her students come from economically disadvantaged homes, and last year's literacy tests showed that an average of just 55 per cent of her third, fourth and fifth-graders were reading on or above grade level.
She said since she became principal this school year, students have made strides in literacy. “We've already seen growth,” she said.
Dr George said she has a deep understanding of growing up in an economically disadvantaged home. She and her five siblings grew up in a three-bedroom trailer in Louisiana.
Her father, who worked at a crawfish farm, dropped out of school in fifth grade to care for his father. Her mother stopped school in 11th grade.
“My mom and dad were great parents,” she said, adding that they emphasised education even though they did not have a lot of it themselves. “My mom was a really smart lady.”
She said she gives positive feedback to her students, and has high expectations, but also knows the importance of meeting them where they are. For example, she said she does not want students to feel like they have let her down if they don't end up attending college.
“I understand some of these kids will never go to college, but I don't want them to feel like they're not successful. Whatever you choose, just be good at it,” she said. “If you're a ditch digger, be the best ditch digger there is.”
In addition to reading to them once a week, she also has twice-weekly dance parties at school and does home visits to give students kudos and to help them if they are off track.
“Anything I can do to build relationships,” she said. “If a child feels loved they will try. There's no science about it.”