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Virtual Storytime Saves the Day — or At Least a Half Hour

Virtual Storytime Saves the Day — or At Least a Half Hour


Circle around your digital device to hear celebrities read during virtual storytime

With schools and libraries closed across the country, it’s getting trickier to keep the kids — and their parents — entertained. But virtual storytime might just be the cure for your quarantine blues.

Through #OperationStoryTime, celebrities and authors have been sharing videos of themselves reading children’s books. It’s prompted readers young and old to gather around their screens to hear some of their favorite tales and discover new ones.

Benefits of storytime

We recommend not spending your days indoors watching shows and movies. Up your quarantine game with reading with your kids.

Countless studies have shown that reading aloud to kids develops their reading and cognitive skills, even years before they actually learn to read.

In addition to developing their brains, early introduction to books inspires a lifelong love of reading and can be useful tools in teaching children about emotions and creativity. It’s what’s made bedtime stories so popular in households all around the world.

Irish illustrator and writer Oliver Jeffers has vowed to hold a virtual storytime every day at 2 p.m. EST, until it’s safe to go outside. Find him on Instagram under @oliverjeffers.

Who’s holding virtual storytime?

There is nothing quite like hearing the story directly from the author. And with much of the world under quarantine, many authors — especially children’s authors  — are offering virtual storytime to help those stuck at home.

Here are a few authors who started reading their books online to connect with their readers during the coronavirus shut-ins.

  • Molly Idle, the author of Flora and the Flamingo and Tea Rex, is holding virtual storytime by reading her picture books. Not only is Idle an award-winning author, she’s also an artist. She creates all of the illustrations for her books. Tune into her IGTV to check it out.
  • Irish illustrator and writer Oliver Jeffers has vowed to read one of his books via Instagram every day at 2 p.m. EST, until it’s safe to go outside.
  • Mac Barnett, a popular children’s book author based in Oakland, Calif., is also hosting a virtual storytime at 2 p.m. EST every day on Instagram.
  • Chris Van Dusen, author of several children’s books including The Circus Ship, is also reading one of his picture books every day on IGTV.

Other virtual activities:

  • Sarah Jane Wright, the author and illustrator of Lola Dutch, is answering the inevitable “I’m bored” calls with her own brand of fun. At Raising Wonder, she is posting daily printable activities and videos to keep kids engaged.
  • Illustrator Ben Clanton is keeping fans busy with virtual drawing lessons on his Facebook page.
  • Mo Willem is doing daily lunch doodles over on Youtube. Grab some paper and markers! This one is great for the whole family to follow along.
  • Those looking for a one-stop shop for all the stories will want to check out Storyline Online. The site features a slew of videos of celebrities reading a variety of children’s books. It even posts suggested grade levels and activity guides to help you pick the stories best suited for your kids. If you ever wanted to hear Chris Pine read “Clark the Shark”, Betty White read “Harry the Dirty Dog” Oprah Winfrey read “The Hula Hoopin’ Queen,” this site is for you.

And while this one is a few years old, a can’t miss is Christopher Walken reading “Where the Wild Things Are.”

Don’t forget your local library

Whether faced with a health crisis or not, your local library has great resources to support your family. Librarians across the country are taking their library storytimes online by streaming videos through YouTube, Instagram and Facebook.

Check with your local library and see what other digital content they have, such as movies, ebooks and music.

If your local library isn’t taking their services online, see what larger library systems are up to. The Los Angeles Public Library has compiled a playlist of previously recorded storytimes on YouTube that you access anytime.

Use storytime to help others

Check out #SaveWithStories trending on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram to see how people are leveraging virtual storytime to help those hurt by this pandemic. Celebrities, including Jimmy Fallon and Jennifer Garner, are reading books to raise funds for Save With Stories, a partnership between Save the Children and No Kid Hungry.

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The money raised helps some of the 30 million children across the country relying on school for food, the school closures have significant impacted these kids. Save With Stories is supporting food banks and other community feeding programs to keep kids healthy and fed during these difficult times.

Actor Josh Gad, the voice of Frozen’s Olaf, is doing his part to keep his young fans entertained. More than 260,000 people tuned into actor Josh Gad’s livestream reading of Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” and he urged listeners to do their best to stay upbeat and safe.

“I know it’s hard not to be out there socializing with everybody. Trust me, I want to be out there as well. … But it’s important that all of us do what we can to protect everybody,” Gad said. “Kids listen to your parents. Parents, listen to your doctors. Doctors, listen to your officials, most of them. Everybody be healthy, be safe.”

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