Children’s book authors broadcast bedtime stories for readers in isolation

Oliver Jeffers, Chris Haughton, Carson Ellis and Mac Barnett are holding live readings and virtual art classes to help bring a little joy to people stuck at home

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For all you folks stuck at home in the coming weeks. Starting on Monday, at 6pm GMT / 2pm EST / 11am PST I will be reading one of my books every weekday, and talking about some of the things that went into making it. We are all at home, but none of us are alone. Let’s be bored together. Also, my pal, and one of the best storybook writers in a generation @macbarnett will be doing the same with his books daily, an hour later. And the genius minds behind @kaleidoscopeire are doing a daily creative project called ‘Home Club’, also starting Monday. ADDITION: this will be made avails to watch later for those in other time zones. I will also look for someone to help with a Spanish translation (sorry to the person who requested this- I accidentally deleted your comment) Stay tuned for more details.

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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.”

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Tomorrow at 5pm GMT on my Facebook page I will read ‘Shh! We have a plan’ Afterwards I will show how I make my art and we will make a collage together with the children’s live prompts. I actually think this lockdown thing is a really unique opportunity. 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. Hope you can join me!! Oliver Jeffers, Mac Barnett and Carson Ellis and all my very very favourite picture book makers are doing this too. It really is a unique opportunity. so great to see. Hope to see you tomorrow x if you think of any questions to ask in the mean time I will try to answer them too tomorrow.

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Hello! I’ll be posting art assignments here every weekday morning when I can. They’ll be designed for kids and grownups alike. If you want to share them, you can use the hashtag #quarantineartclub. I’ll also provide individual hashtags for each exercise so we can see each other’s work. Here is your first assignment: DRAW A SELF-PORTRAIT Draw a picture of yourself from the shoulders up. Then draw a fancy frame around the portrait and write your name at the bottom in nice letters. Swipe to see a useful template. It will help you figure out how to draw a human face – how much space there is between all of its parts and what goes where. Some of the best portraits in the world do not follow these rules and you don’t always have to either. But for this assignment you do. We’re going to do it right. Swipe to see a video tutorial that will help this template make sense. (The green lines are just guides – you should draw them in pencil and erase them afterwards.) Draw on paper and – for everything but the pencil guide lines – use any art materials you want: pens, markers, paint, pencils. You can work in color or in black and white – it’s up to you. While you draw, look in the mirror and ask yourself these questions: What color are my eyes? What shape are they? Are my eyelashes light or dark? Long or short? What color and shape are my eyebrows? Are they thick or thin? Straight or arched? Is my nose skinny? Wide? Crooked? Does is turn up or down? What color is my skin? Do I have freckles? Moles? Scars? Birthmarks? Wrinkles? What color is my hair? Is it long, short, curly, straight? Is my mouth wide? Is it small? Are my lips full or thin? Can I see my ears? Or are they hidden? Sometimes it’s easiest to answer these questions by looking at other people and comparing your features to theirs. That can help you figure out what makes your face uniquely yours. Do this, but don’t make any judgements about how you look. Be like a scientist and study your face as objectively as you can. Okay, have fun! If you want to share or see other people’s self-portraits, use these hashtags: #quaratineartclub

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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