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Reading children’s books is cosplay

“Hello everybody. Oogie Boogie here. I’m here to read you one of my favorite stories, ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas,’” Jeff Seneca says, laughing, in his best Oogie Boogie voice. “So join me as we look at one of my favorite characters — me.”

Seneca, a fifth-grade teacher at Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School, has used the time away from school as a result of the coronavirus pandemic helping organize a group of cosplayers to read to children in videos as part of the group, Cosplay Giving Back.

“I had seen a couple of celebrities reading to kids, and I thought that was a great idea,” Seneca said. “But when I got all excited about Dolly Parton reading and my kids said, ‘Who?,’ or Josh Gad reading and me having to explain that he was Olaf to my kids before they were excited, I realized that they loved the stories, but that the people were not really exciting except for us adults.”

Cosplay, as Seneca describes, is essentially people dressing up as superheroes, anime, Disney or other characters. Seneca’s involvement in theater when he was younger made him a cosplayer from early on, though he has only been to a few cosplay conventions, mainly dressed as Oogie Boogie.

Having met various cosplayers at different conventions, he thought it would be fun to showcase their talents to have them read to kids.

“Having Captain America read a story — even if it’s not about Captain America — seems like a really cool way to try and take people’s minds off of the issues that are going on around us,” Seneca said.

He got a strong response from regional cosplayers, as well as the business Enchanted Events 757, which has a large collection of princesses, and friends who started scouring their closets for costumes.

“I feel like I got lucky with having so many friends who are so willing to share their talents for such a good cause,” Seneca said. “Also, I was lucky that Gregory Wright and Jessica Benner of Enchanted Events jumped on board. They have been one of the biggest champions of getting the word out there, as well as reading so many books.”

Though 12 people have already sent in videos — Seneca was working on editing another video and posting it online Tuesday — he is still looking for more people to take part.

Wright has read four books as Captain America, and others have also played multiple characters or have sent in multiple videos.

New videos are posted Monday through Friday around 5 p.m. to allow for viewing after dinner and before bedtime, and each cosplayer chooses their own books to read. Besides “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” others they have read include “Belle’s Story,” “Call of the Ocean,” “The Little Mermaid,” “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie,” “Even Monsters Need Haircuts,” “Spider-Man Swings Through Europe” and “Aladdin.”

Starting this weekend and continuing every weekend through June, Seneca will begin reading a chapter from “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

The videos can be found linked to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive,” Seneca said. “We have received thank you messages and requests, (and) we have even filmed and sent out a few personal greetings to kids who have asked for books.

“Nothing like Cinderella reading to you personally.”

Cosplay Giving Back: Want to watch?

Mack Benn Jr. Elementary School teacher Jeff Seneca posts videos of different cosplayers reading daily around 5 p.m. They can be found on several platforms:

YouTube: bit.ly/cosplaygiveback

Twitter: @cosplaygiveback

Instagram: instagram.com/cosplaygiveback

Facebook: facebook.com/cosplaygiveback