With widespread school and library closures due to the new coronavirus outbreak, children’s authors and publishers are going digital to provide kids with ways to read, draw, engage, and support other children who might need a helping hand. PW is tracking some of the most creative efforts on social media and across the web, and will be updating our list regularly.
Updated for the May 5 issue, this list includes a new doodling initiative by Mo Willems, the Bronx Book Festival online, a new at-home platform from the Guinness Book of World Records, a free conversation with astronauts Scott Kelly and Mike Massimino, online author events in Canada, a free coloring book for travel-minded kids, and more.
Every Thursday in May, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts education artist-in-residence Mo Willems will lead kids and adults in creating doodles to thank people whose actions in the face of coronavirus have been inspirational. Thank You Thursdays! will be posted to social media via the Kennedy Center’s website, at 1 p.m. ET on Thursdays. The project is jointly sponsored with Disney Publishing Worldwide. Willems will also host an evening of musical doodling with acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Sunday, May 31 at 5 p.m. ET. All programs are free and can be accessed on Willems’s Kennedy Center page.
The Bronx Is Reading will host the third annual Bronx Book Festival on June 6 as a virtual book fest. Keynote speakers Jason Reynolds and Gabby Rivera will be joined by authors Torrey Maldonado, Leah Johnson, Ellen Oh, Ibi Zoboi, N.K. Jemisen, and Victor LaValle, among others. The event is free for all. Attendees must register in advance.
The Guinness Book of World Records has created an at-home platform for kids to explore the stories of people who have set world records, and try breaking some of their own. The site includes weekly challenges called the #gwrchallenge, where participants have a week to become the best at things like flipping and catching a full suit of playing cards faster than anyone else in the world. There is also a Try This at Home series, a Records of the Day podcast, and a trivia contest that families can play.
Astronaut-authors Scott Kelly and Mike Massimino know what it is like to live in close quarters without being able to go outside. On Wednesday, May 6 at 7 p.m. the authors will share their experiences of going to space in a panel moderated by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco. The virtual event is free for all, but requires advance registration.
A digital world allows readers to cross borders, and Penguin Young Readers Canada is offering programming through social media to draw those readers under the hashtag #PenguinTeenSocial. Throughout the month of May, readers can follow the hashtag on social media to events ranging from a Zoom Trivia Night with authors Marie Lu, Rory Power, Jo Treggiari, and Katie Heaney, to a Twitter q&a with Jennifer Niven.
Color Your World, a 70-page activity and coloring book, is available for free download from publisher Pack-n-Go. The children’s adventure mystery publisher encourages girls to travel and write about the world. In addition to its activity and coloring book, Pack-n-Go is hosting free interactive digital author visits to tour students through faraway places, sharing writing tips and beginner language phrases along the way.
Shannon and Dean Hale, authors of The Princess in Black books, have released a free e-book featuring their superhero main character. The book is available for download on Shannon Hale’s website as a public service announcement for kids as a way to learn more about what coronavirus is, and how to stay safe.
Liz Lawson, author of The Lucky Ones, which was published this month, has created a list of YA debut novels released during April, so that readers can easily locate titles during a disorienting time for new book releases. Lawson intends to continue curating a new Bookshop list for each month’s new releases.
Lectura Books is helping educators, librarians, and parents teach kids through a series of free bilingual handouts called Learning at Home. The handouts cover homeschooling subjects from How to Read Aloud to Creating a Time and Place for Studying. Bilingual handouts are e-mailed from the publisher’s site here, and teaching tools are e-mailed out through the publisher’s site here. Lectura is also doing a giveaway of its newly released early readers every two weeks. Winners will receive 24 books along with free worksheets.
Zoobean, creator of the reading challenge program Beanstack, has partnered with Lerner Publishing Group to open the Lerner Sports Database of athlete biographies to students for a reading challenge aimed at students in grades two through five.
Candlewick’s Stay Home site features a free download of Coronavirus: A Book for Children, an e-picture book that helps children understand what coronavirus is and how to minimize exposure. The site also includes activity pages for authors such as Kate DiCamillo and characters like Judy Moody along with links to the publisher’s [Candlewick Presents Podcast] http://www.candlewickpodcast.com/ and YouTube channel, as well as pages of Boredom Busters for story times and book discussions.
More than 70 authors are coming together for an online version of YALLWest, YALLSTAYHOME, which will run from April 25–26. Authors Melissa Albert, Kacen Callender, Stuart Gibbs, Leah Johnson, David Levithan, Angie Thomas, Sarah Watson, and others will participate in panels, readings, and contests. Signed books will be available for purchase from Blue Bicycle Books.
Highlights has created a free semi-weekly e-mail newsletter that offers a thematic collection of activities for parents and kids, ranging from dancing and reading to subjects like honesty and ways to find humor during challenging times. Each newsletter will include an introductory video by Highlights editor-in-chief Christine French Cully.
Flyaway Books has launched a resource hub that includes readers’ guides, family activities, and an original song by Carrie Newcomer for the book The Story of AND: The Little Word That Changed the World. The press is also offering free story time readings via Facebook and updated, relaxed reading permissions for virtual story times.
The Schiffer Kids Resource Hub provides readers with simple one-sheet download activities. Coloring sheets, matching games, a code breaking challenge, and a word maze are among more than 40 individual downloads available on the site.
In consultation with health experts and child development specialists, literacy nonprofit NABU has created a Covid-19 website with free stories to help children understand the current crisis. Two books, The Virus-Stopping Champion and I Love You, are available with current and forthcoming translations in more than a dozen languages.
Puku, Merriam-Webster’s vocabulary building app for kids ages 8-12, is free to download. Leveled lists on the app are available for free and a one-month free trial subscription has expanded content for students and teachers. Educators and parents can also find free worksheets for the app on the Teachers Pay Teachers site.
National Novel Writing Month goes year-round for aspiring young writers. Camp NaNoWriMo is part of NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers program, offering free digital support for writers under 18 to set reasonable writing goals and achieve them. The site also includes educator and classroom accounts for parents to write with their kids.
Audible is offering a free selection of children’s titles in multiple languages including English, Spanish, French, and Japanese. Hundreds of titles are available such as the Stephen Fry audiobook for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Dav Pilkey at Home is a weekly free online video series hosted and created by Dog Man author Dav Pilkey. New videos are posted each Friday and include drawing lessons and read-alouds from Pilkey. The program is the result of a collaboration between Pilkey, Scholastic, and the Library of Congress.
Andrews McMeel Publishing is offering a weekly free ebook from its catalog of middle-grade comics and graphic novels through the AMP Kids newsletter. The publisher is also providing printable creative activities and downloadable teaching guides, as well as read-alongs with authors including Dana Simpson (Phoebe and Her Unicorn), Georgia Dunn (Breaking Cat News), and Will Henry (Wallace the Brave).
Follett School Solutions has made Lightbox, the company’s pre-K–12 e-book platform free to all schools. Through the initiative, AV2 World Languages is also free. In addition, the company has waived costs for its Classroom Ready Collections for any of its Destiny program customers.
E-books from Capstone’s PebbleGo and Capstone Interactive are currently free, and the publisher has also created a dedicated website with free additional resources for children and parents. The site includes activities from making paper spinners and bookmarks to home science experiments for making putty and toilet paper roll planters.
Amazon Publishing is relaxing company guidelines for online readings of books published by Two Lions and Amazon Crossing Kids, as long as the readings are for educational and non-commercial purposes. For permission, educators, librarians, and booksellers can e-mail with their name, institution name, location, and the book they would like to read. All videos must be removed by June 30.
Epic’s digital library of 40,000 e-books, audiobooks, and learning videos is available to students for free through June 30. Educators who use Epic are able to invite their students into the library at no cost on any device.
Peachtree’s Remote Learning Resources Hub offers free materials for students, educators, and parents, ranging from entertainment to Common Core-aligned teacher’s guides. Along with virtual storytime access and activity sheets, the site also includes relaxed guidelines for read-a-louds, and is regularly updated with new content.
Nomad Press is supporting students learning from home through a learning hub that offers printable activities, classroom guides, and a resource library with e-books. In addition, the press has relaxed permissions policies for online readings from Nomad Press titles.
National Geographic has introduced NatGeo@Home, a platform for children, parents, and educators to access free content including games, videos, and activities. Through the site, readers can explore remotely with National Geographic Explorers, read content from the publisher’s Weird but True and Zeus the Mighty series, and conduct experiments from home.
Workman is gathering free content from all of its subsidiary publishers and imprints on one remote learning website. The site includes educator guides, reading group guides, and additional samples for educators and K–12 students. In support of remote learning, the publisher is also offering a 20% discount on books purchased through its website.
Magination Press, the American Psychological Association’s book imprint, is providing essential resources to families on a free family resource page. The page provides content specifically developed by authors and psychologists to help children and caregivers. The site includes mindfulness tools and tips for managing stress and anxiety. Throughout the crisis, the press will be continually updating the site with author readings, writing prompts, and additional activities.
Bilingual preschool publisher Encantos is supporting UNICEF by launching the One Big World Campaign. Through the initiative, Encantos will make a donation to UNICEF every time a person posts to social media with the hashtag #onebigworld. Participant photos should share one thing that the poster loves about the world and tag @gotinytravelers.
Page Street Kids is offering more than a dozen activity and classroom guides for parents and educators, and posting tips about them to their social media accounts daily. The publisher is also sharing projects for kids pulled from the pages of books on STEAM and crafts via Instagram, along with weekly author and illustrator storytimes on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. ET. In addition, Page Street is relaxing its guidelines for read-alouds.
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing is offering a number of digital resources for children and families, all of which can be accessed on its new learning hub Read & Learn with Simon Kids. Along with direct resources, the publisher is also doing a weekly “Snack & Read Live with Simon Kids” half-hour video series on Facebook on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at 2 p.m. ET. Participating authors include Emily Calandrelli, Scott Campbell, Jarrett Lerner, and Scott Magoon. On YouTube, “Read & Learn with Simon Kids” will feature self-shot home videos of reading with authors, including Tony DiTerlizzi, Lita Judge, Hena Khan, and Aaron Reynolds.
HMH Books for Young Readers is creating free activity guides, coloring pages, and videos by authors and illustrators—including Kwame Alexander, Chloe Bristol, Lois Lowry, Lori Mortenson, and Kim Smith—which are e-mailed each week to support families and educators. Along with the e-newsletter, the HMH Books for Young Readers Resource Library contains free downloads and content, all of which are part of HMH’s #HomewithHMH campaign. In addition, HMH has relaxed audio and video guidelines for fair use streaming by educators and librarians.
In partnership with One Tree Planted, Blue Dot Kids Press will plant a tree for every coloring sheet that young readers complete and submit by e-mail. In addition to coloring sheets, the publisher is making activity kits and teaching guides available for free on their website.
Nube Ocho is sharing multimedia content in Spanish for young readers. From audio narrations to sing-alongs and craft activities, Spanish speakers and learners can access free content on the publisher website, including an animated short of the book Ni Guau Ni Miau.
Hazy Dell is offering an array of coloring pages and craft guides that give young readers the chance to do activities based on the publisher’s book characters of monsters and critters. Many of the materials provided by the publisher align with Common Core standards.
Random House Children’s Books has a new how-to drawing series led by illustrators, from Judd Winick to Max Lang, Matt Holm, Lauren Castillo, and Peter Emmerich. The series kicks off on April 3 at 1 p.m. ET on the Random House Kids Instagram with an art lesson from Tad Hills, who will show budding young illustrators how to draw Duck and Goose. The program will run through May and parents can share on social media using @RHCBArtSchool.
Chicago Review Press has developed an entirely new e-learning site to support parents, kids, and educators with distance learning during the coronavirus outbreak. Free books and related content are available for learners, divided by age group. In addition, eight CRP authors have recorded 30- to –60-minute recorded lessons that students can watch. Among those contributing to the site are Science Arts author MaryAnn Kohl and The Way I Act author Steve Metzger.
DK’s new Stay Home Hub is a dedicated website that includes activity packs and coloring sheets for children, with expanded content rolling out over the coming weeks. In addition, DK is encouraging children and educators to turn to DKfindout!.com, an encyclopedic platform where children, parents, and educators can explore subjects in-depth and use them for online classes.
Charlesbridge has launched two new sites to support remote learning and engagement for kids, parents, and educators. A Remote Author Page has author readings, book talks, lessons and activities while a new Activities and Downloadables Page has activity kits, educator guides, coloring sheets, and puzzles.
Mackin has developed a website specifically to share distance learning resources for educators who are new to digital instruction. The site includes resources, content, activity guides, author interviews, videos, and links to additional resources. It also provides tools for integrating instruction with free classics hosted by Mackin on Project Gutenberg.
Star Bright Books is granting teachers, librarians, and children broadened rights to use the publisher’s titles for distance learning. In addition, the publisher is making a rotating selection of four free picture books available in PDF on its website each week, including titles in Spanish.
Beginning April 2 at 7 p.m. ET, country singer Dolly Parton will read children’s books for bedtime by way of the Imagination Library’s YouTube channel. The readings are part of a lead-up to the September release of The Library That Dolly Built, a documentary about the Library, a 25-year-old book program created by Parton, which has donated more than 135 million books since its inception. Among the books Parton will read from are Loren Long’s There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake, Anna Dewdney’s Llama Llama Red Pajama, and Parton’s own I Am a Rainbow.
Inviting young readers into the Smithsonian’s online library, Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg have created a free brochure for download called “How to Make a COLLAGASAURUS!” Modeled after AstroNuts, the brochure guides children through the Smithsonian’s archive in search of material that helps them create their own collage.
PJ Library, which specializes in making free Jewish-themed books available to readers, is hosting a story time session three times a day at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. ET on the library’s Facebook pages. In addition, the library’s resource page has free printable games and activities for kids.
Twice a day until April 6, Kids Can authors and illustrators are participating in a reading relay. Each one is taking to Twitter and Instagram to read from their new book or offer a drawing demonstration before passing the baton by tagging and signal-boosting another author or illustrator.
Storey is harnessing Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest to share live author demos and projects kids can do at home with parents. Activities are drawn from Storey books and include kitchen pantry science experiments, stitching projects, baking demos, designing animal masks, and even ways for kids to help out with chores at home.
Since the beginning of the new coronavirus, there has been a rise in xenophobic and racist attacks on Asian-Americans. Author and PW reviewer Daphne Benedis-Grab has created a guide with trusted sources for news on the issue, intended for use by educators with high school students and advanced middle school students. The site also offers ways that educators and students can respond to anti-Asian attacks.
At Home with AW is a new initiative by Albert Whitman and Company that offers video content and activities for young readers each week. Videos are available on YouTube with additional free resources for activities posted to the publisher’s blog. The debut video focuses on Mindful Me, a book about mindfulness, with a reading and breathing exercise, as well as an art project and ideas for how to create a gratitude chart.
57th Street Books’ Young Readers Advisory Board is inviting young readers to submit a poem from life to firstname.lastname@example.org for National Poetry Month. Every young poet’s entry will appear in a forthcoming volume A Young Person’s Guide to 57th Street Books. The effort is inspired by Suzanne Slade and Cozbi Cabrera’s forthcoming Exquisite, a picture-book biography of Gwendolyn Brooks. Information on How to Write a Poem from Life can be found on the store’s website.
Lerner Publishing Group has created an [easy-to-use website] https://lernerbooks.com/help-at-home for distance learning. The website includes free videos, downloads, and resources for educators, parents, authors, and illustrators that are conveniently separated into categories for grades preK–5 and 6–12.
Rebel Girls At Home makes available for free download the entire journal I Am a Rebel Girl: A Journal to Start Revolutions. The new website also offers free access to activities from the Rebel Girls chapter book series. In addition, the website’s podcasts are available for free on Spotify.
Thirty-six million Americans are unable to read or write at a basic level. The Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy is tracking adult literacy on a literacy gap map while also unveiling tools for parents, caregivers, and adult learners. In response to the coronavirus, the foundation has made an at-home learning toolkit for people working with kids, and for adults working with others or by themselves.
On March 25, DC hosted its first Kids Camp digital programming, with videos on Twitter and Instagram, showing kids how to make a Green Lantern ring with Minh Lê and how to do Superman origami with Gene Luen Yang. New content with activities will be posted regularly with updates on times for new programs sent Mondays and Fridays via the DC Family Newsletter.
The Association of American Publishers has created a resource page about ongoing publisher efforts in support of clients and consumers during the outbreak. The site will be regularly updated with new information about publisher programs, fair use policy alterations, and outreach to schools and libraries.
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators has launched #SCBWIConnects, a weekly notice of free online resources created by published members of the organization. The first edition of the newsletter included 350 listings of digital author events and lessons. Issues are compiled and sent every Monday.
Penguin Random House and Parents Magazine have expedited their launch of a national family reading movement program called Read Together, Be Together. Weekly virtual story times will be hosted by authors and actors. The schedule for weekly events is available at Read Together, Be Together As part of the program, PRH has also donated 750,000 books to the literacy non-profit First Book.
Familius has partnered with Vooks to offer a 30-day free trial of Familius read-aloud videos. The publisher is also making teaching guides and other resources available upon request.
School Zone Publishing is offering one month of full access to the company’s Anywhere Teacher App when the code ATHOME is used at sign-up prior to March 31. The app provides access to more than 2,000 activities including books, video games, and worksheets for children ages two to eight.
In honor of Children’s Book Week, the Children’s Book Council has made a 23-page coloring book available in individual pages and as a full download for free. Each page celebrates this year’s theme for Children’s Book Week, which is Read. Dream. Share. Drawings include works by Jessica Love (r.), Sarah Jung, Marcos Navarro, Katie O’Neill, Greg Pizzoli, and others.
For budding young writers, Children’s Book Insider is making its Young Writer’s Blueprint writing course available for free. The step-by-step course is the creation of children’s and young adult author Alice Kuipers. The course is designed for children ages six to 10 but is also appropriate for teens. An adult must sign up for the course, which can be accessed here.
Cinco Puntos Press is sharing bilingual storytelling videos from author Joe Hayes and developing a growing catalog of video resources from other authors published by the press, beginning with All Around Us author Xelena Gonzalez, whose video is a Tai Chi workshop. Current and forthcoming videos are being shared by the press on social media. Cinco Puntos is also offering free teaching guides for early reader books on their website, including activities for kids and reading questions.
Sourcebooks has made access to online storytimes free. In addition, P for Pterodactyl author Raj Haldar created a video for Nick Jr. showing kids how to sneeze into their elbows—a video that is receiving renewed interest. DJ Corchin, author of the forthcoming picture book A Thousand No’s (Sourcebooks, Aug.) is hosting a daily drawing hour at 10:30 a.m. CT on his Facebook page. In conjunction with Corchin’s book, Sourcebooks is running a “My Teacher Said YES!” sweepstakes in which students and parents can nominate a teacher for making an impact on them during the Covid-19 pandemic. Recipients will receive a signed copy of the book, teachers copies for their classrooms, and $500.
Holiday House’s newly launched resources page offers teaching and reading resources for teachers, parents, librarians and educators. The site includes more than 300 reading guides, activities, storytime kits, flashcards, and more.
PRH Canada/Tundra Books is making all guides, event kids, and extras of book content available for free download. The press is also including activity box kits with books in its e-newsletter, including works on finger puppet-making and kazoo-making. In addition, Tundra authors and illustrators are doing virtual storytimes and singalongs. Among the contributors are Narwhal & Jelly author Ben Clanton and Studio author Emily Arrow.
House of Anansi and Groundwood Books is encouraging readers to share with others by reading the same book at the same time. When customers purchase an e-book from the publisher website they can enter the name of a friend in the notes section of their order and that friend will receive a free e-book copy of the same book.
Simon & Schuster is making resources available to educators, booksellers, and librarians via its online hub, The Book Pantry. Users can use the site to conduct livestreams and post readings of S&S children’s titles for students and customers. In addition, Simon & Schuster authors are taking to social media to share readings and drawing lessons. Debbie Ridpath Ohi is teaching art lessons while fellow author Aaron Reynolds has started “The Aaron Reynolds Stay-At-Home Show,” both on YouTube.
HarperCollins Children’s Books is making online reading of all its titles available for free to teachers, librarians, and booksellers through May 31.
Scholastic Books is hosting its first digital book fest on March 20 at 3 p.m. ET, and following it with a second book fest on March 27 at 3 p.m. ET. The Home Base Virtual Book Fest is hosted on the company’s Home Base website and features established and debut authors.
Caryl Hart Children’s Books has created the hashtag #FreeBookResources for readers to be able to quickly and easily locate free children’s book content on social media.
Scholastic has opened up its extensive library of digital curricular resources for free through a new website, Scholastic Learn at Home. In a statement, the publisher said, “Scholastic Learn at Home allows open access to daily learning journeys divided into four grade spans—Pre-K–K, Grades 1–2, Grades 3–5, and Grades 6–9+, covering ELA, STEM, Science, Social Studies, and Social-Emotional Learning.” In addition to general learning materials, the publisher has also created a website for teaching young people about the coronavirus outbreak.
PRH is offering a temporary open license to digital content for educators, librarians, and booksellers. The license allows professionals to access and stream videos of story times, read aloud videos, and live readings. Booksellers can also upload and share videos and related media if it uses a PRH title, and educators can integrate PRH title-related content through the site’s digital classroom platform.
Kennedy Center Education artist-in-residence Mo Willems is leading an afternoon doodling session every day at 1 p.m. ET for the next few weeks, showing readers how to draw his iconic pigeon and piggie, as well as offering a glimpse inside his Massachusetts studio. “Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons,” Willems said in a statement to readers. “We are going to doodle together and explore ways of writing and making.”
Save the Children has partnered with NoKidHungry, Scholastic, and actors Josh Gad, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Garner to share Instagram videos of storybook readings to raise funds for children who have been affected by school closures.
KidLit TV has created a virtual library available to readers on their site. The virtual library includes tutorials, read-alouds, podcasts and other activities, including reading resources. The multimedia content provider is run by educators and parents and works with more than 600,000 schools.
Hey, Kiddo author and illustrator Jarret J. Krosoczka has taken to YouTube to offer a daily drawing lesson for people of all ages. Krosoczka will record a video every weekday at 2 p.m. ET for the coming weeks.
HarperCollins Children’s Books is using social media to share daily story times, learning materials, and activities with readers. Authors, illustrators, and Harper staff will participate, with social media channels available for different age groups. HarperKids is on Instagram for little readers, the YouTube channel Shelf Stuff is for middle grade readers, the Epic Reads Twitter feed is for teens, and HarperStacks—also on Twitter—has resources for educators, parents, and caregivers.
Picture book creator Hervé Tullet’s colorful and interactive Ideal Exhibitions have been shown worldwide in museums and galleries, but with those spaces closing around the world, Tullet is inviting teachers and children to participate in creating a version of his exhibitions from home and encouraging them to share. More information is available at lexpoideale.com/en/ or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Peter Reynolds, author of The Dot and many other works for young readers, was winding down his tour for his new picture book BE YOU! when the new coronavirus outbreak caused him to cancel in-person appearances for some of his last events. Now, Reynolds is taking to Facebook daily to do a daily read-aloud that students and teachers can view.
Author Kate Messner’s site is being regularly updated with publisher-approved author readings, art lessons, and curricular resources. Messner has also received permission for read-alongs for some of her books, including a not-yet-published title from Chronicle.
Stimola Literary Studio will offer more than 50 live streams for children to tune into between March 23 and April 3. A Stimola Live YouTube channel will archive the readings for future viewership. Content is for kids of all ages and will include read-alouds, crafts, journaling, math, yoga, and drawing lessons. Where possible, the livestreams will link to indie bookstores for customers to be able to purchase books by the authors. Among the participating authors and illustrators are Donna Barbra Higuera, James Ponti, Barb Rosenstock, Barney Saltzberg, Mika Song, Matt Tavares, Susan Verde, and Rowboat Watkins. A logo for the effort was donated by author Shanda McCloskey, and McCloskey’s husband developed the website.