How The Kids’ Literary World Is Banding Together To Save Story Time
Written by Erin Feher
Photography by Photography by Janis Curry for HarperCollins
The same story can be told a hundred different ways. Depending on who is reading it—mom, dad, grandma, teacher—the magic shows up in different places. Which is one of the many, many reasons books are so special. And right now, being stuck at home means there are fewer people to read our kids stories. No more morning circle at school, no more Saturday story time at your local bookstore, no more library visits to the professional book reader. But a bunch of big-hearted authors are coming to the rescue, dedicating a chunk of every morning to hosting one of the biggest and best story times ever. Authors including Oliver Jeffers, Mac Barnett, Matthew Swanson, and more are committing to reading one of their own books on Instagram Live every single day until the day we can all go back to the bookstore, the classroom, the library.
We spoke with California-based author Mac Barnett, the man behind Sam and Dave Dig A Hole (amongst 40+ other titles), about what inspired him to launch his own daily story time. “Last Friday—I can’t believe it was only seven days ago—I came back to Oakland after a week presenting to students in California’s Central Valley. I love reading aloud to kids—it’s why I started writing picture books. On Saturday, many schools in the Bay Area, and across the country, announced shutdowns. I thought of all these kids suddenly stuck at home—and their parents, too. Almost instantly, our entire society changed. Childhood changed. I’m still wrapping my head around it.”
“So, on Saturday morning I decided I’d start a little book club. Every day we’d gather at noon, virtually, on Instagram Live. I read a different book each day. I also wear a different hat each day (I buy too many hats). Kids are encouraged to wear hats while they watch. I was pretty overwhelmed by the response—it showed me there was a real need for this. Kids from around the world joined that first day—Iran, Croatia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Italy. We’re meeting every day, weekends, too. I talk a little bit about what’s going on in my neighborhood, and at my house. And then we all read a book. I think people generally want to be useful in a crisis. Gathering together and telling stories is one of the oldest, deepest ways humans make communities. In a time when physical connection has necessarily become attenuated, I’m very grateful that the internet has given us a way to gather. I’ve always been a big social media skeptic. I probably will be again. But right now I’m happy it exists.”
We are, too! Below, we’ve put together a lineup of IG Live story times (with more surely to be added!). Tune in, and let you kids experience an extra-special reading of their very favorite books!
The prolific author has nearly 40 books (!) under his belt, including the one about a whimsical friendship (and rivalry) between three shapes, the one full of screwy love poems about a pig, and the one about a cacophonous apartment building populated by laughing cowboys and gossiping sheep. Don your favorite hat, and cozy in for a good read.
When: Every weekday, 7pm GMT / 3pm EST/ 12pm PST
The charming Brooklyn-based author of The Day The Crayons Quit, Here We Are: Notes For Living On Planet Earth, The Fate of Fausto, The Heart And The Bottle, and so many more beloved kids’ books, reads from his current home away from home—an apartment in Belfast, where his around-the-world trip with his family was cut short due to COVID-19. He and pal Mac Barnett were two of the originators of the virtual story time movement, with his hashtag #stayhomestorytime.
When: Every weekday, 6pm GMT / 2pm EST/ 11am PST
Literacy activist and author of the Ana & Andrew kids’ series, Christine Platt has spent the past few months touring elementary schools, teaching history, race, equity, diversity, and inclusion to people of all ages and reading some of her favorite books to kids. Since she, like the rest of us, is now stuck at home, she has taken to reading one book a day from her series on IG Live. She posts when she can, and they are all saved on her feed, so it’s more of a watch anytime vibe.
When: New stories added every day or so, always ready to view in her feed
Matt de la Pena
This author and dad is a talent for all ages. Parents of littles probably know him for his classics like Last Stop On Market Street and Carmela Full Of Wishes. But his YA novels have been scooping up awards for years, and his short fiction and essays have appeared in the New York Times, NPR.org, and more. So, while he did sit down in front of the camera for a reading last week, his daily reading for kids comes in the form of his “Dear Stuck-At-Home Student” letters he posts to Instagram. He writes them nearly every day, and includes his personal email so kids can write back—which, apparently they are! He hints that videos are coming soon.
When: Every weekday
Robbi Behr and Mathew Swanson
This high-energy (and hilarious) couple is the kids’ book power duo behind The Real McCoys, Sunrise Summer, Babies Ruin Everything, and Everywhere, Wonder. They are also parents to 4 (!!) kids of their own and the hosts of a daily picture book story time and read-along. They read from their books, talk about their creative process, do demonstrations, suggest activities, answer questions, and hopefully give kids an afternoon boost (and parents an hour to rest a bit).
When: Every weekday, 5pm GMT/ 1pm EST/10am PST; Real McCoys read-along immediately after.
Where: Robbi & Matthew On YouTube
This Australian artist and illustrator of children’s books hasn’t illustrated a million books, but the ones she has written are the best of the best: Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear won the 2016 Caldecott Medal, and Hello Lighthouse (which she both wrote and illustrated) took the prize in 2019. Her readings of Hello Lighthouse and Ivy and Bean, One Big Happy Family (written by her friend @anniebarrowsauthor) are saved on her IGTV channel, and she has been posting regular new videos on her feed, including a 3-part Q&A from kids about Hello Lighthouse. She has also saved the videos she has done in the past week on her YouTube channel.
When: Currently posted on Instagram and YouTube
Running Press Kids
This imprint is part of the larger Hachette Book Group and puts out fun and creative kids books. Every day (including weekends!) on their Instagram Live channel they feature picture books read by the authors themselves. Here’s the line up for the next few days: The Boy Whose Face Froze Like That with Lynn Plourde (Monday), Alpaca Pati’s Fancy Feast with Tracy Kyle (Tuesday), and Georgia’s Terrific, Colorific Experiment with Zoe Persico (Wednesday).
When: Every day, 5pm GMT/1pm EST/10am PST/
Tune into the publishing house’s IG Live channel to catch live picture book readings and kid challenge. This week’s authors include Misty Copeland (3/23), Danica McKellar (3/24), Astronaut Scott Kelly (3/25), Tiffani Thiessen and Brady Smith (3/26), and B.J. Novak (3/27).
When: Weekdays, 11am EST/8am PST
Where: @PenguinKids (and individual celebrity accounts)
Brightly posts a Storytime video each day at 2pm EST/ 11am PST, which features a full-length picture book read by their in-house storyteller Ms. Linda. View them anytime in their IGTV tab.
When: Weekdays, 2pm EST/ 11pm PST
This star-studded feed from the life-changing nonprofit Save The Children features live picture book readings from celebrities including Jennifer Garner, Laura Dern, Dakota Fanning, Kerry Washington, Ron Howard, Lupita Ynongo, and so many more. In partnership with Save the Children and No Kid Hungry, these high-profile story times also help drive donations to Save the Children and No Kid Hungry, making sure schools and community programs have the support they need to keep brains and bellies full.
Story Time From Space
This isn’t on IG, but we thought is was definitely cool enough to include. Feeling a little claustrophobic stuck at home? Tune in and have some astronauts read you some stories from space. Yep, these men and women know a thing or two about being alone and locked in small spaces for a long stretch, and watching them bob around in zero gravity while reading favorites including Ada Twist Scientist and Mousetronaut Goes to Mars is a truly out-of-this-world experience. There are more than 20 story time videos to choose from, and they include both kids’ books and science-themed YA novels.
Where: Story Time From Space
For more story time inspiration, check out The Best Children’s Books of 2019, 10 Great Kids’ Book Instagram Feeds To Follow Now, and 6 Reading Challenges To Hook Kids On Books.
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Hey folks. Thanks SO MUCH for including Robbi and me in this post! We are honored to be included in this roster of superstars. All episodes are archived for later viewing, too. Hope to see you there!
Thanks! We updated your times!
We’ve also been enjoying storytime with @Petethecatofficial on weekdays at 9am EST!