Stellar Streaming Storytimes for When You Are Stuck at Home

Dolly Parton sitting beside a large book of The Little Engine That Could

Now that my husband and I are the chief facilitators of our kid’s remote kindergarten experience, in addition to both working from home at our full time jobs, I find weekday lunches to be a pretty exhausted time for me. Thus, I’ve instituted a lunchtime storytime practice, where some professional reads my kid picture books aloud on a laptop screen, keeping her interested and engaged while we all refuel and the grownups in the household try to also do work.

Luckily, the internet is simply dripping with people who want to read picture books aloud, and I’ve found several series I can rely on without resorting to the wilds of YouTube. I’ve grouped them here into those that are already established and thus offer a substantial backlog to work through, and those that are new, and cropping up with (sometimes topical) episodes now. Those don’t have many yet, but that makes it exciting when there are new ones.

Established and Excellent

Storyline Online has a rich repository of well-produced videos of SAG-AFTRA actors reading excellent books aloud, with good sound effects, sometimes background music and light animation. These videos have credits. “Each book includes supplemental curriculum developed by a credentialed elementary educator, aiming to strengthen comprehension and verbal and written skills for English-language learners,” according to their website. Not only are they reliably great, they offer that same celebrity thrill Sesame Street cameos do. “Sean Astin is reading a book to the kid,” I can tell my husband casually.

An actor holds up a picture book in a still from a video
Rami Malek reads The Empty Pot for Storyline Online.

Story Time from Space also offers a celebrity thrill, as it features astronauts o the International Space Station, reading space-themed picture books aloud. While floating around. One of the cool things about this program is all the different nationalities of the astronauts, and books are read aloud in different languages. And in addition to Story time, they also offer Science Time from Space, in which astronauts demonstrate scientific experiments for kids, while floating around.

Start Ups That Are Already Fabulous

Good Night with Dolly is a new YouTube series in which Dolly Parton reads “bedtime stories” to kids. There are only two episodes so far, but they are both adorable and well-produced, as one would expect from consummate innovator and literacy promoter Dolly Parton.

Levar Burton is reading kids’ books on Twitter live on Mondays that can be watched later on your schedule. The first one was this week, and I look forward to more. He’s also doing YA read alouds another time, and you can listen to him read you a grown-up story any time you want by following his podcast, Levar Burton Reads.

The New York Public Library has begun a series of virtual story times in which the children’s librarians from different branches lead Story Times from their homes. There are only three of them so far as I’m writing this, and reader, today my kindergartener did all three. Just like story time in the actual library, the time is broken up between reading picture books aloud, singing songs with movements, and discussing issues pertinent to story time, such as how to make your own shaker to be a musical instrument. Watching these recorded and watching my kid be so cheerfully engaged, is a testament to how expert these librarians are. I hope this growing archive of videos stays accessible, even when we can all go back to the physical library as well.

a librarian holds up an open picture book in a still from a video
Librarian Lauren Wrenn reads Octopants for NYPL Virtual Storytime

Truly, Our Storytime Cup Runneth Over

Here are a few that I haven’t tried yet, but that sound promising:

LGBTQ feminist children’s book press Flamingo Rampant is hosting a streaming story time on Facebook.

Queens Library is offering an impressive range of virtual storytimes, including Bilingual Spanish Storytime, Chinese Storytime, and Drag Queen Story Hour, among others.

Michelle Obama will be reading weekly on Mondays for a month!

And if storytime doesn’t turn out to be your kid’s thing, we also have suggestions on streaming series your kids might like!

Emily Lauer

Emily Lauer

In addition to being a contributor to the site, Emily Lauer is the Pubwatch Editor for WWAC. She teaches writing and literature at Suffolk County Community College where she studies comics, kids' books, adaptations and visual culture. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, daughter and dog.