Five online storytelling sessions that children will enjoy

These virtual read-alongs by celebrities, libraries and furry friends can keep children entertained at home

Former US first lady Michelle Obama reads to children in a new video series on PBS Kids. Via PBS Kids / YouTube
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It has been over a month since UAE schools and universities have closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, students have had to adjust to the ways of e-learning, and parents, most of whom are also restricted to the staying indoors, are searching for new ways to engage with their children.

The rise of online reading sessions by public figures, celebrities, authors and libraries can be a welcome help to those looking to keep their children entertained with educational resources. Here are a few from the UAE and abroad to check out.

Read Along with Michelle Obama

Michelle Obama is one of the many celebrities sharing reading time online. Last week, the former US first lady appeared in a video on American network PBS Kids to read The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.

She will continue to read more of her favourite books online until Monday, May 11. The series of videos comes out of a partnership with the network and Penguin Random House to promote literacy, and the videos are shared on the YouTube channel and Facebook page of PBS Kids.

Reading Dogs UAE

Reading Dogs is known for hosting sessions with canine companions where children read to the dogs as a way to practice their skills in a more relaxing and fun setting. Now, the organisation has taken their activities online, putting together storytelling sessions on Instagram live. Their next session will be held on Tuesday, April 28 at 10.30am, featuring Millie the Pug with the story Frankie's Magic Football by Frank Lampard.

The Wadi Tribe Storytelling Sessions

The Wadi Tribe, a children's 'edutainment' brand in Dubai, launched online storytelling sessions with local author Saniya Chughtai last week. Reading from her own work, Chughtai writes about the adventures of a turtle named Tach and the magical world of Chee and Dae. The 40-minute sessions are held via Zoom every week and are free to attend, though registration is required.

New York Public Library

The best thing about the New York Public Library’s story time sessions? The props and puppets that make the videos livelier and more engaging for children. Each weekday, the children’s librarians read, clap and sing songs in videos shared on the library’s website.

Since the closure of the library in March, the New York Public Library has been staying active and connected to readers online, sharing 'pocket poems' and short stories on their Instagram .

Goodnight with Dolly

American country singer Dolly Parton brings to life a variety of characters with the help of her Southern accent in her video series Goodnight with Dolly, where she reads books from the Imagination Library, including The Little Engine That Could.

The show, which is available on YouTube, premiered on Friday, April 3 and now has four episodes.

Parton is among other Hollywood celebrities that have taken to hosting storytelling sessions in the midst of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders around the world. Chris Evans from The Avengers franchise and comedian Ellen DeGeneres have also shared videos on their social media channels.