Reading and Art Lessons, for Children

Oliver Jeffers

Along with adjusting to working from home and juggling childcare arrangements, parents around the world are now having to work out how to entertain restless kids as schools and nurseries are closed down in a bid to limit the spread of coronavirus. Streaming platforms can provide some respite, but there’s only so much Netflix you can watch in a day.

Thankfully, a group of children’s book authors and illustrators have decided to use their skills to help bring some entertainment to families in isolation.

On Sunday, Oliver Jeffers announced he would be reading one of his books every day until people are able to leave their homes. Readings take place at 6pm UK time and are broadcast via Instagram Stories, meaning viewers in different time zones can tune in and watch any time within the following 24 hours. All broadcasts have been recorded and will also be added to Jeffers’ website.

Mac Barnett – the author behind the Jack Book and KidSpy series – is also broadcasting live readings via Instagram at 12pm Pacific time, which are available to watch for 24 hours. In a post announcing the readings, Barnett said he had around a month’s worth of picture books – “and if we run out I might read some chapter books”, he wrote.

Other authors are using Facebook and Instagram to run collaborative exercises and virtual art clubs. Chris Haughton – author of Oh, No George! – is broadcasting readings and daily art activities on his Facebook page at 5pm each weekday, and has created downloadable activity sheets for adults and kids to use at home. On Wednesday March 18, Haughton will be reading his book Shh! We Have a Plan before creating a collage using prompts from viewers.

“I actually think this lockdown is a really unique opportunity,” he wrote on Instagram. “When I was a young child I loved drawing and would happily spend hours on my own, completely consumed in drawing. I still do. I want to show children how much fun it can be.”

Portland-based illustrator and author Carson Ellis, meanwhile, has been running a digital art club, posting exercises for kids and adults each morning using the hashtag #quarantineartclub. Tasks so far have included creating a self-portrait and coming up with prompts that could inspire drawings and paintings, and Ellis has been sharing selected responses via her Instagram feed.

With people feeling anxious and worried about their health – and the impact of an extended period of self-isolation – it’s heartwarming to see illustrators and authors using their skills to bring a little joy to people’s daily routine and encourage some creative thinking and communication among readers.

@oliverjeffers@macbarnett; @chrishaughton; @carsonellis

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