Youth & Family Engagement Recommends: Online Fun With Authors, Illustrators and Storytelling

Thursday, April 30, 2020

If you’re a parent or caregiver who’s overwhelmed by the seemingly endless number of events and activities online for kids right now, don’t panic! Your Library is here for you. Our Youth & Family Engagement department is reviewing what’s out there and recommending our favorite new online content.

Looking for a familiar face? Remember that our youth librarians are live on Facebook every day of the week at 10:30 a.m. with regular storytimes. And our Make. Do. Tell. series is live on YFE’s YouTube channel on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 1 p.m.

Make Do Tell
The Library's YFE staff host the Make.Do.Tell. video series.
Levar Burton Reads
Reading Rainbow's Levar Burton conducts read-alongs on Twitter.


LeVar Burton Reads (preschool, elementary, teen)


What it is:  LeVar Burton, of Reading Rainbow and Star Trek fame, offers weekly read-alouds on Twitter, reading to children at 11 a.m. on Mondays, young adults at 5 p.m. on Wednesdays, and adults at 8 p.m. on Fridays.

Why we like it:  LeVar offers expressive, emotionally rich read-alouds that children and parents alike will love. His live readings are interactive and full of gentle, comforting messages. Young adult read-alouds have included excerpts from Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds and Songs in the Key of You by Sarah Pinsker.

Mac’s Book Club Show (preschool, elementary)

What it is:  Children’s author Mac Barnett reads picture books on Instagram Live every day at 2 p.m. He also does a daily "Chapter Books After Dark" segment at 7 p.m.

Why we like it:  Mac Barnett is absolutely hilarious, and these are programs that the whole family can enjoy. His picture book read-alouds feature jokes, frequent appearances by his dog, and a different hat every day.

Kids Ask Authors (elementary)

What it is:  A weekly podcast hosted by children's author Grace Lin gives kids the opportunity to ask their favorite authors questions about their lives, writing process, and more.

Why we like it:  A great one-stop shop for awesome author interviews. Each week, a notable children's author (such as Christopher Myers, Jane Yolen, or Mo Willems) answers a question submitted by a child. Episodes are less than 10 minutes long but include plenty of advice and inspiration.

Jason Reynolds' #WriteRightRite (elementary, teen)

What it is:  A video series of writing and self-expression prompts on Instagram and Youtube, led by award-winning middle-grades and YA author Jason Reynolds as part of his "Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story" platform with the Library of Congress.

Why we like it:  Videos are short, funny, and done in Reynolds’ engaging style, offering such writing and self-expression prompts as “create an award for yourself that doesn't exist yet.” Activities appeal to a wide range of ages and audiences, including kids who don’t think of themselves as writers.

Storycorps Connect (elementary, teen)

What it is:  A platform that enables you to record a StoryCorps interview with a loved one remotely, using video conferencing technology. The audio and a still photo go into the archive at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Why we like it:  Storycorps Connect turns today’s virtual connectivity into a powerful opportunity for families to participate in history. This is a great avenue for kids to deepen relationships with grandparents or other adults they can’t see in person right now.

The hOle Lotta Time Exhibit Design Challenge (elementary)

What it is:  The Rabbit hOle, coming to Kansas City in 2020, is the world’s first Explor-a-Storium, an immersive storybook wonderland and national center for children's literature. The challenge, though May 15, is for kids between the ages of 5 and 12 to bring a favorite book to life by designing an interactive museum exhibit. Guidance is provided for making it three-dimensional.

Why we like it:  This unique challenge is a great opportunity for kids to develop design thinking skills, learn what goes into making a museum exhibit, and interact with a favorite book in an outside-the-box way. Kid-friendly videos provide helpful guidance and break the task down into manageable steps. Prizes are yet to be announced, but Rabbit hOle website says “the ultimate prize may be that your design is realized in The Rabbit hOle’s Explor-a-Storium.”


Jason Reynolds
YA author Jason Reynolds hosts "Grab the Mic: Tell Your Story."
Draw Every Day
Author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka offers daily art lessons.


Draw Every Day With JJK (elementary)

What it is:  Daily art lessons from author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka, the author of Punk Farm, Lunch Lady, Jedi Academy and the young adult graphic memoir Hey, Kiddo. The latter was a National Book Award finalist.

Why we like it:  A great option if you’re looking for something offered daily. JJK features in-depth demonstrations of different drawing techniques and illustration components. Videos are approximately 20-30 minutes long and best for kids with an interest in drawing.

Pete the Cat Club (preschool)

What it is:  Illustrator James Dean goes live on Instagram every day at noon, reading aloud from a Pete the Cat book or sharing a drawing activity.

Why we like it:  Dean's calming, laid-back presence makes this program a perfect relaxation break in the middle of a long day.

What it is:  Dan Gutman reads aloud from one of the My Weird School books every weekday at 1 p.m. on Facebook Live, covering one title a week.

Why we like it:  Unlike some short-term programs, My Weird School sessions will continue until school resumes. Kids will enjoy being greeted by name as Gutman says hello to every viewer who logs in during the first five minutes of the program.

Magic Treehouse Home Adventures (elementary)

What it is:  Magic Tree House Home Adventures provides weekly videos by Mary Pope Osborne, activities, crafts, recipes, reading challenges, cross-curricular lessons, a family trivia night game, parent resource guides, and much more.

Why we like it:  It starts Tuesday, April 27. We love The Magic Treehouse, and can’t wait!


Dav Pilkey At Home
Dav Pilkey uploads a Friday Fun drawing video and a "question of the week.".
Kelly Yang
Author Kelly Yang offers online writing classes for teens on Instagram Live.

Magination Press Storytime (preschool, elementary)

What it is:  Magination Press, the children’s imprint of the American Psychological Association, offers author read-alouds of timely learning books on its YouTube Channel. They cover such social-emotional topics as kindness, worry, sadness, and asking for help.

Why we like it:  Parents looking for child-friendly information from a trusted source on coping with difficult feelings will appreciate these picture-book read-alouds, which targest topics relevant to the stress and upheaval that many families are experiencing.

Dav Pilkey at Home (elementary)

What it is:  Every Friday, Dav Pilkey uploads a Friday Fun drawing video and a "question of the week," paired with book excerpts and prompts to draw, write, and act out responses to the featured question.

Why we like it:  Fans of the Dog Man series will love this. Friday Fun videos offer brief demonstrations of how to draw popular characters. Book excerpts related to the question-of-the-week prompt are available to read online. And there are links to coloring sheets, activities, and book trailers.

Read Along With PBS Kids! (preschool, elementary)

What it is:  Read-alouds by authors and creators of popular books and PBS programs, including Marc Brown (Arthur), Victoria Kann (Pinkalicious), and Angela Santomero (Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood). Michelle Obama does a read-aloud program every Monday.

Why we like it:  If you're frustrated by technology glitches in livestreamed programming, check this out for high-quality, pre-recorded videos by the creators of popular PBS content and authors of associated books. The former first lady’s read-alouds are a highlight.

Draw Together With Wendy Macnaughton (elementary)

What it is:  Every weekday at noon, on Instagram Live, Wendy Macnaughton teaches drawing in 30-minute sessions aimed at early elementary audiences. A week later, each session is uploaded to YouTube.

Why we like it:  Wendy has a warm, silly, enthusiastic presence that is comforting to kids. Her drawing activities are fun, simple, and suitable for even the youngest elementary-age viewers.

Writing Classes for Teens with Kelly Yang (teen)

What it is:  Award-winning middle-grades author Kelly Yang offers online writing classes for teens every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 2 p.m. on Instagram Live. She also holds regular talks with other YA writers. Videos are subsequently available on Yang’s YouTube channel.

Why we like it:  Yang's cheerful, energetic presence will motivate teen writers, covering topics like character, stakes, and dialogue in her how-to writing classes.

Stay Home With Candlewick Press (preschool, elementary)

What it is:  Candlewick Press provides a wide – and fun – array of content and activities, including videos, crafts, printables, and games inspired by such favorite characters as Judy Moody, Maisy, and Mercy Watson. You also can download the well-reviewed Coronavirus: A Book for Children for free. On Candlewick’s YouTube channel, Kate DiCamillo and other authors offer creative writing and drawing activities.

Why we like it:  The publisher’s YouTube content is varied and great! DiCamillo's writing series is a highlight, filled with gentle, practical advice for children, tweens, and even adults who are serious about writing. Allan Wolf's Poetry Palooza, on the other hand, is an energetic mix of performance and poetry that will engage anyone with an appetite for silliness.