Celebrities and children’s books have been a favorite pairing for a long time. And since the pandemic hit, it seems that there are more boldface names than ever showing their love for kids’ books online. We’ve rounded up a number of examples of celebrities reading aloud or talking about their favorite titles.
Jennifer Garner: Books with Birdie
Back in 2017, actor and mother of three Jennifer Garner began posting short video clips of her reading children’s books to her gentle and attentive Golden Retriever, Birdie. She kicked off the first episode with a note revealing her childhood goals of becoming a school librarian and a children’s author. “To date I have accomplished neither—but—that doesn’t stop me from making must read lists for my friends. After all, there is nothing more important than reading to your kids. Unless you have a dog.” Each post includes the title and author of the featured book, and sometimes additional book suggestions, too. Most recently, she “read” Marla Frazee’s wordless picture book The Farmer and the Monkey, and even acted out some scenes with her beloved pup. #BooksWithBirdie on Instagram.
Jennifer Garner, Amy Adams, and Friends: #SAVEWITHSTORIES
As the pandemic shuttered schools and began to take an even greater toll on kids in need, Garner, a trustee of relief organization Save the Children, and friend and fellow actor Amy Adams teamed up to create #SAVEWITHSTORIES, a new initiative to support the coronavirus response efforts of Save the Children and No Kid Hungry. Since March 16, the actors and many of their famous friends have been sharing videos of themselves reading favorite children’s books. The virtual storytimes help drive donations to Save the Children and No Kid Hungry. Scholastic is a founding partner of the initiative and has secured numerous titles from their catalog to be featured in this effort. In a statement about the project’s launch, Ellie Berger, executive v-p and president of Scholastic Trade Publishing, said her company was proud to be involved. “With many schools, libraries and bookstores closed across the country, it’s essential to create ways for kids to still access books,” she said. “Now more than ever, families need wonderful stories to enrich their learn-at-home experiences and provide the joy and comfort of reading together in unsettled times.”
The series was an instant hit. In the initiative’s first two weeks, 89 stories had been read, generating more than 41.7 million views. By early July, the campaign had amassed just over 300 videos performed by such stars as Benedict Cumberbatch, Helen Mirren, Jimmy Fallon, Reese Witherspoon, and Noah Centineo. To date, #SAVEWITHSTORIES, in combination with Save the Children’s other coronavirus response efforts, have helped 624,000 children across rural America. The overwhelming response from celebrities who wanted to help has allowed #SAVEWITHSTORIES to take a pause, and no new videos added since July 12. But the existing lineup can still be viewed for free. #SAVEWITHSTORIES on Facebook and Instagram.
Andy Cohen: Book Reviews
Fans of Bravo TV personality and talk show host Andy Cohen know that he is a new(ish) dad. Lately, he’s been offering Instagram “book reports” of the board books that he and his young son Ben enjoy most. Cohen delivers his assessment of the selected book often asking for Ben’s agreement, while the boy toddles around his dad onscreen. Recent top picks are Good Night Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann (“We love, love, love Good Night Gorilla. Don’t we love this?”); and I Love Trucks by Philemon Sturges, illustrated by Shari Halpern (“This is a favorite”; “There are a lot of trucks, basically”).
Drew Barrymore: Nightstand Selections
What’s on actor and new daytime talk show host Drew Barrymore’s nightstand to read with her two daughters, Olive, almost eight, and Frankie, six? She lets you know, via Instagram. Barrymore shared her and her girls’ bedtime reading stacks in a recent post. The photo reflects the season and includes a lot of back-to-school themed picture books. Barrymore has mentioned in various interviews that open discussion and reading books with her kids are critical parts of her parenting approach. She spoke with 12-year-old crochet phenomenon and author Jonah Larson (now a kid correspondent for Barrymore’s new show) for an interview in Domino Kids magazine about how she has been helping her daughters understand big issues like Black Lives Matter during this era when so many kids are feeling fearful about many things. When the pandemic first took hold, Barrymore told Larson that she thought, “This is not the time to promote things or talk about anything but the conversation at hand. I made protest signs with my girls and bought a whole slew of new books to read—like this wonderful book called Raise Your Voice: 12 Protests That Shaped America [by Jeffrey Kluger], about how protesting is so important and such a catalyst for change.”
Dolly Parton: Goodnight with Dolly
Country music icon and philanthropist Dolly Parton helped entertain kids and families during the coronavirus crisis by crafting Goodnight with Dolly a 10-episode series featuring her clad in comfy pajamas in a bed reading titles selected for her Imagination Library book gifting program. Imagination Library has been providing free books to preschool children around the world since 1995.A documentary about the program is due out later this fall.
Natalie Portman: Natalie’s Book Club
Last week Natalie Portman, actor and newly published children’s book author (Natalie Portman’s Fables, Feiwel and Friends) hosted a discussion with Patrisse Khan-Cullors about the new YA edition of book When They Call You a Terrorist: A Story of Black Lives Matter and the Power to Change the World by Khan-Cullors and asha bandele (Wednesday Books). The video was part of Portman’s Instagram book club on which she shares her favorite reads—both adult and children’s titles.
Storyline Online is the long-running Emmy-winning literacy program of the nonprofit SAG-AFTRA Foundation. It features SAG-AFTRA (the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) members—from Oprah Winfrey to Betty White to Kristen Bell to Viola Davis—reading children’s books. The series launched in 2002 and receives more than 100 million views annually from around the world. This past April, actor Jaime Camil was the first performer ever on the site to read a children’s book in both English and Spanish (Zombies Don’t Eat Veggies by Megan and Jorge Lacera, illustrated by Jorge Lacera). And in response to the pandemic, Storyline Online launched its inaugural summer camp, inviting kids to choose a favorite book or write one of their own, record it in the “best storyteller voice” and mention why they chose that particular book or story and post it on social media using #StorylineOnlineSummerCamp.
#StorylineOnline and @StorylineOnline on social media.
Tom Hardy: CBeebies
British actor Tom Hardy is widely known for his roles in such works as the film Inception, and the BBC crime drama series Peaky Blinders, among others. But he’s also a super popular reader of children’s books. Tom Hardy’s CBeebies Bedtime Stories, a series of stories recorded in 2016 for BBC Children’s preschool channel CBeebies, were requested more than one million times through December 2019. That made him the channel’s favorite celebrity reader, beating out the likes of Emilia Fox, Chris Evans, Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, and others who have recorded entries since the series launched in 2004.
In late April 2020, in response to the coronavirus crisis, Hardy returned to CBeebies to record six more bedtime story episodes. The programs were filmed in his garden. Of this latest round, Hardy explained he wanted to read another round of stories to help children calm down before bed during the pandemic. Though not all of the videos are available to U.S. viewers, here is a sample on YouTube.
Josh Gad: #GadBookClub
Actor and father Josh Gad, a.k.a the voice of Olaf the snowman in Disney’s Frozen films, began reading children’s books nightly via his Twitter feed last March to bring comfort to kids and families amid the pandemic. During his first outing—a livestreamed rendition of Olivia Goes to Venice by Ian Falconer—Gad kicked things off by explaining his goal: “Since we’re all stuck at home right now I figured we would have a little fun together, so I’m going to see how this goes, but I decided I’m gonna read to you and your children or just you, depending on what you prefer. I’m not gonna pass judgment right now since the world is a little bit of a hot mess.”
Here are some examples of clips under #GadBookClub: