Keep the Kids Connected and Engaged with their Favorite Authors
In these strange and uncertain times, one thing has become increasingly clear: stories have a healing power like no other.
Perhaps you and your family have turned to books, television or movies to keep you inspired. These portals into other worlds bring us comfort by either starkly contrasting our own situations — allowing us a brief reprieve from our confusing reality — or by mirroring that same reality, showing us that such things have happened before and will certainly come to an end.
As adults, we crave the escapism and relatability that stories promise — and it’s no different for children. Separated from their teachers, classrooms and friends, this can be an alarming and downright scary time for kids, which makes it more important than ever to offer them whatever comforts are available.
To that end, authors and celebrities all over the world are extending their hands to families in need of a break from the stresses and uncertainty we’re currently facing. With many publishers temporarily easing their copyrights, authors and educators are being empowered to read published works through livestreams and videos, or to lead their young audiences in activities that restore a small piece of normalcy to their daily routines.
It’s a small act of kindness that goes a long way, and these familiar faces are doing their part to help us stay engaged and inspired.
The voice of everyone’s favorite snowman, Frozen star Josh Gad is livestreaming a bedtime story every night (7:30 p.m. EST/6:30 p.m. CDT) as part of his #GadBookClub on Twitter. He’s already read from favorite titles like “The Day the Crayons Quit,” and for anyone who can’t catch the stories live, each stream is archived for repeat viewings (a concept that anyone with a Disney+ subscription is already familiar with). Gather the kids and get ready to let those restless feelings go.
Dan Santat is a children’s author and Caldecott medalist best known for his picture book “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend” and the Disney Channel series “The Replacements.” Now, he’s hosting the Santat Online Survival School for the Pandemic, an online learning program that introduces kids to many of the terms they’re hearing for the first time — quarantine, vaccine, social distancing and more. Each “class” comes with a downloadable activity kit to keep kids busy and entertained, all while learning and earning accomplishment badges.
Author and illustrator Mo Willems — who was raised in New Orleans and graduated from Isidore Newman — is inviting audiences into his studio every day at 1 p.m. EST/12 p.m. CDT for Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems. Viewers can learn how to draw several of Mo’s famous characters, like the titular Pigeon from “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” or his iconic duo, Elephant and Piggie. Dan Santat even makes a guest appearance on episode eight to teach us how to draw Beekle. It’s an exciting opportunity to connect kids with their favorite storybook characters and to develop their own artistic abilities.
Fans of Roald Dahl’s whimsical brand of storytelling will want to tune in to this UK writer’s “Elevenses with the World of David Walliams.” Every day for 30 days, Walliams is releasing an audio story from one of his several works, which include dastardly dentists and the most mischievous children you’ll ever meet. There’s even a trove of activity sheets available for download to keep imaginations going even after the story is over.
Kate DiCamillo’s stories are full of heart and wonder, and everyone has fallen in love with at least one of her incredible works — “The Tale of Despereaux,” “Because of Winn-Dixie,” or “The Magician’s Elephant.” She’s got a genuine knack for uplifting and inspiring, and while families are stuck at home, she’s sharing some of her secrets for crafting memorable stories. In partnership with her publisher, Candlewick Press, she’s hosting #WriteWithKate, a once-a-week learning session in which Kate shares some of her tips and best practices. Participants are challenged with something new every week — write a letter to someone real or imaginary, or find a writing partner to keep you on track. This one isn’t just for kids, and anyone who has ever wanted to start writing will want to tune in.
The “Wayside School” for a new generation, Dan Gutman’s bestselling “My Weird School” series gets kids reading and laughing at the same time. He’s hosting a My Weird Read-A-Loud series every weekday at 2 p.m. EST/ 1 p.m. CDT on Facebook live — and he’s promised to keep doing so until schools return to normal operation. Those with copies of his books can follow along for two chapters per day, or you can just sit back, relax, and enjoy the weirdness as Dan reads aloud.