When schools began closing in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, James Dean, author of the popular “Pete the Cat” children’s book series, wanted to entertain kids — and give parents a break. So, since mid-March, he’s been reading his books live every weekday at 1 p.m. on Instagram (@petethecatofficial) and Facebook Live.
“The thing I love the most is connecting with the kids,” Dean tells The Post. “I’ve been amazed by all the cards, letters, drawings and messages children and parents have sent since we started Pete the Cat Club.” The author has received more than 6,000 letters since the club started, and he has promised to respond to every one.
Dean is one of dozens of authors and performers keeping kids, and even adults, entertained online. On “GoodNight With Dolly,” Dolly Parton reads bedtime stories every Thursday at 7 p.m. It’s a delight as she reads from her bed and, sometimes, sings a song at the end. The country star started on April 2, with “The Little Engine That Could,” by Watty Piper, and will close the 10-episode series with her own “Coat of Many Colors.” The videos are streamed through Parton’s social-media channels as well as Parton’s Imagination Library YouTube channel.
LeVar Burton, “Star Trek” legend and one-time host of PBS’ “Reading Rainbow,” is reading aloud for young kids, as well as teens and adults, on a Twitter LiveStream (@LeVarBurton) three times a week (noon on Mondays for kids; 6 p.m. Wednesdays for young adults; and Fridays for adults at 9 p.m.). For the younger set, Burton started with “Enemy Pie” by Derek Munson.
Through Save the Children, actresses Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams launched @savewithstories on Instagram, which already has 134 authors and celebs reading children’s tales, such as “Big Red Barn” read by Garner; “The Circus Ship,” read by Steve Carell; and “The Rooster Who Would Not Be Quiet” (“¡El gallo que no se callaba!” ) read in Spanish by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
“Jennifer aspired to be a librarian when she was a young girl and has extensive knowledge of children’s books,” Betsy Zorio, vice president of US programs and advocacy at Save the Children, tells The Post. “Jennifer and Amy have been asking their friends and colleagues in Hollywood and beyond to participate.”
The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s children’s literacy Web site Storyline Online streams videos of top actors reading children’s books while viewers watch the stories come to life with illustrations and some animation. Among the dozens of choices are Oprah Winfrey reading “The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen” by Thelma Godin; Evelyn Coleman’s “To Be a Drum,” read by James Earl Jones; and Allison Janney’s take on “Carla’s Sandwich” by Debbie Herman. Most of the readings are for young kids, and are about 10 minutes long.
And don’t forget, kids will certainly enjoy their own parents reading to them, too.