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Tech-savvy grandma reads library books to grandson 10,000 miles away in Australia

28 April 2016

An internet-savvy grandmother has discovered a great way of keeping in touch with her grandson in Australia – by reading a bedtime library book to him over webcam.
Penny Warland, 66, from Braintree, calls at 9.30am (BST) to read Braintree Library books to four-year-old Riley more than 10,000 miles away in south Australia over internet webcam application Skype.
Penny’s video calls come through just before her grandson’s bedtime at 6pm (BST) due to the eight-and-a-half hour time difference.
Thanks to free book rental from Essex Libraries and no call charges for internet video calls on Skype, the nightly ritual does not cost the retired shop worker a penny on top of her usual internet subscription.
Mrs Warland said: “I always pick up a book for Riley when I’m in Braintree Library as they have a great selection of books, all sorted by age group.
“When grandchildren move away there’s a danger that you end up only knowing them by the photos you’re sent.
“Our Skype sessions allow me to have one-to-one time with him whilst encouraging him with his reading.
“Sometimes I write out the words in the book so I can show him the page on camera and he can read along whilst I read from my notes.
“He is a big fan of The Gruffalo stories so when he recently came to visit we treated him to a trip to the Gruffalo Trail at Thorndon Country Park.”
Penny is now urging grandparents in her position to join Essex Libraries and embrace modern technology to help keep in contact with friends and family members.
She added: “I would encourage everybody to join their local library and learn to use their computer and webcam as it offers a great opportunity to keep in contact with family and friends. It’s a lot easier than people think and you can always ask someone younger for advice if you’re struggling.”
Cllr Anne Brown, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Corporate, Communities and Customers, said: “It is great to see people in Essex embracing modern technology to keep in touch with family abroad and the brilliant selection of children’s books on offer through Essex Libraries.
“Penny’s efforts are truly heart-warming as a bedtime story can play such a crucial role in introducing children to the wonders of reading at an early age – even if it is read by a grandmother on the other side of the world.
“Anybody in the county wanting to follow in Mrs Warland’s footsteps or who fears they may be out of touch with modern technology should keep an eye out for events at an array of libraries across the county to help residents become computer savvy.”
For more information on computer literacy and other events at libraries across Essex please visit our “What’s New?” section at