8-year-old boy shines as narrator in Read2me series

Jean-Michael Woodroffe reads to his brother Jaden at their home in Maracas, St Joseph. -
Jean-Michael Woodroffe reads to his brother Jaden at their home in Maracas, St Joseph. -

One of the fondest memories a child can have is having a bedtime story read to them.

The book chosen can leave a lasting impression on that child's mind as the story takes them on a journey through the land of imagination.

Read2me_tt is taking this experience to the world of social media through the platforms of Instagram live and Facebook.

The initiative, co-founded by Elena Dyer and Kevin Blake-Thomas, is derived out of the covid19 pandemic stay-at-home measures.

The duo uses Instagram live to stream storybook readings and then post the recordings to other social media platforms to reach a wider viewership.

Dyer explained the concept. "We were thinking of mental health for adults and children. How children especially were coping with the news of the pandemic and the unknown. Instead of them only listen to news or feeding off of fears and anxiety, we wanted to create a space where for at least half of an hour there was a sense of normalcy. Something to distract them from the current situation of the world," she told Sunday Newsday.

Jean-Michael Woodroffe has found his voice as a narrator in the Read2me live series. -

Its description on Instagram reads, "As long as schools are closed we'll be streaming and reading to help children continue dreaming, learning and just being children."

Read2me_tt features a pair of local volunteer narrators, some prominent and other ordinary people, reading donated books with short stories written by local and regional authors at 8 pm every night.

To start the initiative, Dyer called on close friends to assist by volunteering.

The Woodroffe family was one of the first that agreed and their eight-year-old son Jean-Michael Woodroffe is one of the youngest narrators to have narrated so far.

Jean-Michael Woodroffe, eight, reads to his brothers, eight-month-old Alexander and Jaden, five, at their home in Maracas, St Joseph.
Photos by Vidya Thurab -

Jean-Michael's first live was on May 1. He and his family read Chee Chee's Adventures, Chee Chee's Big Plan 2 by author Carol Ottley-Mitchell for children and families who log on to the live.

On May 17, he read for the second time, this time without his family and with entertainment entrepreneur Teri-Leigh Bovell, narrating Yolanda T Marshall's book Keman's First Carnival.

Jean-Michael's mother, Jade Woodroffe explained, "We did a family reading. We were one of the first families to read. So it was everybody, mom, dad and the boys. And he sat with his dad and we did the reading. The internet just loved Jean-Michael since then."

His second reading has received almost 3,000 views to date and was so well liked, there have been requests for him to do more read2me lives.

Jean-Michael was excited to do his first reading and proud the book was a local one.

He shared his thoughts on why this is good for children. "It's a bedtime story and if they need to go to sleep at that time, they can go to sleep at that time (by viewing and listening to the live readings) and if it is finished they can just watch it over again until they fall asleep."

A student of St Joseph Boys' RC School, Jean-Michael likes reading because it's fun and according to him "I get to learn more knowledge of words."

Reading is not the only interest Jean-Michael has, his other hobbies include martial arts, learning to play the piano, football and swimming.

He shared why he likes martial arts. "It teaches discipline, and kids are not really disciplined so they don't know anything about it, and martial arts teaches how to be disciplined."

With no physical school to attend Jean-Michael passes the time at home by playing games with his brothers, practising piano lessons and helping his family in whatever ways he can.

His mother describes how he tries to help. "He is such and amazing individual. He is responsible, takes care of his two brothers and has such a loving demeanour and is extremely caring. For an eight-year-old, I find him to be so mature. He takes care of himself, his siblings and even us, just making sure that we are okay."

When asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, Jean-Michael simply said, "Being a good person by helping."

His outgoing personality has also been acknowledged at his school where he has received certificates for outstanding effort in the field of leadership and outstanding academic achievement of 90-100 in final term exams in 2018-2019.

Jean-Michael has also participated in the Read2me_tt free webinar, Art is in the Heart, where he was part of a panel of five children who chatted with Florida-based clinical psychologist Celina Ford.

Art in the Heart was a concept put forward to the group by award-winning mas designer and artist Peter Minshall, where panel discussions are held with Ford to express feelings and how to cope with covid19 pandemic. The panel is not only for children as there are adult sessions as well. It takes place once every month.

Read2me_tt aired its first live on March 26 with the pair of Peter Minshall and poet/musician Muhammad Muwakil reading Xyon's Heart written by Muwakil.

Other personalities featured were former national footballer and coach Russel Latapy and a wide variety of Trinidadians and Caribbean nationals in various fields – from pilots, to stylists, marketing managers to entertainers – all giving of their time to read for the children.

Each live reading ends with a public health advisory educating and informing the viewers on health safety tips they can use during this time of covid19.

Thus far, read2me_tt's views have reached 4,000. There are currently 120 volunteers and 60 donated books from local and regional authors. The organisation can be contacted via email at read2mett@gmail.com or on Instagram and Facebook by the handle read2me_tt.


"8-year-old boy shines as narrator in Read2me series"

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