In these weeks of social distancing, we’re constantly searching for new ways to entertain our kids. With libraries and schools closed, we’re also running low on reading materials. That’s something Dolly Parton has been working to end since 1995 with her Imagination Library, a nonprofit that donates books to kids in need. This week, she just announced that she’ll be meeting both needs by hosting a nightly story hour.
Beginning on April 2, every night at 7 pm, the country superstar will read a book from the Imagination Library to kids in a social media event she’s calling “Good Night With Dolly.”
“This is something I have been wanting to do for quite a while, but the timing never felt quite right,” Parton said in a statement to Good Morning America. “I think it is pretty clear that now is the time to share a story and to share some love.”
Parton has joined a growing list of authors, celebrities, and regular everyday heroes who have been stepping up to offer virtual storytimes for kids stuck at home. Last week, Penguin Kids announced its own official contribution to this effort, launching Read Together, Be Together, which featured daily live storytimes by its celebrity authors Misty Copeland, Danica McKellar, Tiffani Thiessen and Brady Smith, Scott Kelly, and B. J. Novak.
At ReadTogetherBeTogether.com, parents can find book lists, videos, tips, and printables provided by Penguin and Parents magazine, its partner in this effort. The program, which was initially slated for the summer, also teamed up with the literacy nonprofit First Book to donate 750,000 books to kids in need, who are suffering the most from school and library closures, not to mention the economic insecurity of their parents.
“We know from experience that kids having books and storytime at home helps create a sense of normalcy that is sorely needed in the midst of this crisis,” Kyle Zimmer, president, CEO, and co-founder of First Book, said in a press release. “First Book is working to ensure that kids in need across the country have books at home during this time while most are out of school.”
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It’s finally here!!!! My new children’s book, Bunheads!!!!!!! Coming 9/29/2020!!!!! 🎉🎉🎉🎉with @penguinkids @setor_fia I’m so thrilled to bring my ballerina crew to life! Showing and sharing stories and the beautiful bonds between this band of ballet misfits!! Pre-order link in profile
Penguin’s site Read Brightly has also been hosting daily readings on its Instagram. Last week, Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams launched the Instagram account SaveWithStories, which features fellow celebs (from Noah Centineo to Kerry Washington) and children’s authors reading popular kids books aloud. The site is part of their effort to raise money for Save the Children and No Kid Hungry.
With most of these stories taking only about 5 minutes or less to read, you may be searching for all the options available to supplement your impromptu homeschooling. Check with your local library to see if they’ve got a virtual storytime set up — or go to the websites of larger library systems, like Brooklyn Public Library. Older kids might want to check out Scholastic’s new weekly virtual book fests which feature author Q&A’s, games, and even a dance party.
We also love the grassroots programs sprouting up, like this Facebook group launched by Tori Pentell, a teenager in Rhode Island, who is reading both picture books and chapter books for any kid who wants to tune in. Heck, if any of you are bored at home, we challenge you to start one of these yourself!
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This story was initially published on March 23, 2020.
Here are more ideas for how to keep kids busy when they’re stuck at home.