“As a little kid, I loved to read aloud. And when I became a parent, I found such joy in sharing the magic of storytelling with my own children—and then later, as First Lady, with kids everywhere. At this time when so many families are under so much stress, I’m excited to give kids a chance to practice their reading and hear some wonderful stories (and to give parents and caretakers a much-needed break).” -- Michelle Obama, Former U.S. First Lady
To encourage family engagement and a love of reading during this time at home, PBS KIDS offered families a place to come together and read along with fan favorites on YouTube, Facebook and IGTV. The series gave us a way to include our PBS KIDS show creators, authors and celebrities who were looking for ways to help families at this time. For families across the country, it broadened their home libraries by sharing a range of diverse books, improved children's reading skills and gave everyone something to look forward to each week during those uncertain first months of pandemic. Along with the readings, each PBS KIDS Read-Along is designed to encourage engagement among families with activity ideas (drawing lessons to dance turtorials) and lessons from the reader, engagement questions, and related articles from PBS KIDS for Parents.
The celebrity readers include Michelle Obama, Jenna Bush Hager, Barbara Pierce Bush, Kristen Bell, Marly Dias, Christian Robinson, Tim Gunn, Carla Hall, Boris Kodjoe, Nicole Ari Parker, Camila Alves McConaughey, Thomas Rhett, Lauren Akins, Misty Copeland, and more.
During the first couple of weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns in March, the PBS KIDS social media channels received a lot of UGC from parents and caregivers sharing how they were using PBS KIDS resources during this unexpected time at home. We noticed that they were using PBS KIDS shows and games around lunch time as a way to entertain kids and prepare them for naptime/study time. Inspired by these families, we created a weekly read-along that went live at 12 p.m. ET on Facebook and YouTube. Not only did this create appointment viewing for families, it exemplified PBS KIDS' mission of reaching all kids and broaden families' home libraries by sharing a range of diverse books and bilingual readings with children across the country. Also, research shows that reading aloud can improve children's reading skills, so these videos, which can still be watched on-demand, helped improve literacy skills at a time when school attendance was uncertain.
On May 11, PBS KIDS announced a partnership with Penguin Young Readers and Random House Children’s Books for “Mondays with Michelle Obama,” its special collaboration with the former First Lady of the United States. These 8 read-along videos ran from April 20 to May 25 and included special guests President Barack Obama, Bo and Sunny Obama.
PBS KIDS also partnered with Little Free Library for a summer series of read-alongs that began on June 29 with NBA Legend Dwyane Wade. Through the collaboration, each special guest also designated a location in the U.S. where a Little Free Library will be installed, complete with a supply of diverse books.
PBS KIDS show creators and authors featured include Marc Brown (ARTHUR), Brad Meltzer (XAVIER RIDDLE AND THE SECRET MUSEUM), Victoria Kann (PINKALICIOUS & PETERRIFIC), Angela Santomero (DANIEL TIGER’S NEIGHBORHOOD), Princess Johnson (MOLLY OF DENALI), Chris and Martin Kratt (WILD KRATTS)
In total, these videos reached more than 10 million people across YouTube and social media platforms.