With schools closed around the world, kids now depend on their parents and virtual learning for their education, and many parents are splitting time between their jobs and 24/7 childcare. During this time, authors, publishers, bookstores, and libraries have been providing support in a variety of ways — from offering free educational books to creating events to keep children entertained (and give their parents some time back).
In today’s post we’re highlighting some of the ways the publishing community is helping children and their parents impacted by COVID-19. We’ve been inspired by this groundswell of bookish support — and we hope this inspires our readers who might be wondering how they can help as well.
1. Bookstores are soliciting donations from customers to give books to children
On March 23, Roxanne J. Coady, founder of RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut, posted a letter on their store website asking customers for donations to distribute books to children. This initiative would help her 70 employees keep their jobs while also aiding local families in need. “Let’s help families who are coping with unprecedented hardship have the spark of wonder, escape, and adventure,” she wrote. “Books provide the motivation to dream, to learn, and to believe. Even a small step saves someone, makes a difference, and shows our humanity to each other.” Below the letter, customers could select a donation amount in $50 increments.
The idea quickly gained support from customers, authors, and even US Senator Chris Murphy, who emailed this endeavor to his constituents and promoted it on social media. According to Publishers Weekly, the store raised $100,000 in one day: “Coady will be able to distribute approximately 30,000 books in New Haven and Bridgeport. 7,500 K–8 readers will receive a book a week for four weeks when their families go to pick up their lunches.”
2. Organizations are sourcing books from publishers to donate to kids
Other organizations are collecting book donations directly from publishers to send to kids. First Book, a nonprofit advocating for equal access to quality education, created a COVID-19 Action Response project to distribute 1.3 million books, educational toys, and digital access codes to more than 2 million children. Publishers like HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Macmillan, Candlewick Press, Workman Publishing Group, and more — as well as related organizations — contributed to this effort (see the full list here). They’re also accepting monetary donations to deliver 8 million books to children via their website.
3. Nonprofits are distributing free picture books for children about the pandemic
Several nonprofit organizations are releasing picture books to give children ways to learn about the pandemic and quell their fears. For example, My Hero Is You by Helen Patuck is a story about a girl who’s afraid and missing her friends when one night, a dragon recruits her for a global mission to learn how families can keep themselves safe from the coronavirus. Several humanitarian organizations collaborated to create and distribute this book for free (it’s available to download here in 16 languages), including IASC and the World Health Organization. This and other coronavirus-related picture book titles are being released for free by ereading platforms like Worldreader, and you can read more about these efforts here.
4. Publishers are providing free digital content for students
Several publishers are also providing free content to help students continue their education remotely, and to enable parents, teachers, and librarians to easily get the tools they need to enable virtual learning. Lerner Publishing Group has added a section to their website to foster distance learning by providing free digital resources. According to this website, “To help enable librarians, teachers and educators helping students with remote access and online learning, a selection of our digital products are now available for free through June 30, 2020.”
Scholastic has created a “Scholastic Learn at Home” website to offer free online courses for students, as well as daily projects for children to do.
5. Authors and publishers are creating fun activities for children
Some authors and publishers alike have created activities to keep their young readers occupied at home. Children’s author and illustrator Mo Willems has been uploading daily doodle videos for kids on The Kennedy Center’s YouTube channel using the easily searchable hashtag #MoLunchDoodles.
DC Comics collaborated with several middle grade authors and artists to launch DC Kids Camp and help parents keep kids busy at home. Via their social media channels, DC will provide activity sheets, coloring pages, blank comic book pages, middle grade graphic novel previews, and additional downloadable content to help kids learn how to draw, do origami, or build craftable items like Green Lantern rings.
6. Authors and publishers are launching virtual reading tours
In lieu of IRL book readings at bookstores, some authors and publishers are creating virtual reading tours on their social media channels. Over a dozen picture book authors, including Matt de la Peña, collaborated to create an agenda of readings on Instagram Live, with the hope of giving parents a much-needed break since many schools have closed.
Penguin Kids partnered with Parents magazine to create the initiative #ReadTogetherBeTogether to host virtual readings every weekday with celebrities and authors. They post each week’s agenda on their social media channels.
For both of these tours, each author (or celebrity reading one of Penguin Kids’s picture books) hosted the reading via Instagram Live or Facebook Live on their own profile.
7. Publishers are offering steep discounts on parenting books
Many publishers are also dropping the prices of their parenting titles to make them more accessible to readers during this challenging time. HarperCollins dropped the price of The Call of the Wild + Free, a nonfiction title on how to homeschool your kids.
Sourcebooks even launched a new book called The Coronavirus Manual for Parents by Thomas W. Phelan, and dropped the price to $2.99.
8. Publishers are discounting books for children
Similarly, some publishers have been running steep discounts on books for kids. Bloomsbury ran a #StayAtHome sale in which they offered several picture books for $1.99.
DK has also been dropping the price of many activity books and nonfiction children’s titles in their catalogue, including Maker Lab by Jack Challoner.
9. Authors and publishers are launching virtual kidlit book festivals
Many of the season’s biggest book festivals have been canceled, but thanks to video conferencing technology, authors and publishers have started launching virtual conferences to bring panels to readers at home. Authors Ellen Oh, Christina Soontornvat, and Melanie Conklin collaborated to create Everywhere Book Fest, a virtual children’s book festival that was held May 1-2. They created a website where readers could peruse the agenda, packed with more than 50 authors and illustrators.
Wednesday Books, an imprint of Macmillan that publishes mostly young adult titles, announced on Twitter and Instagram that they’d be hosting WB Reader Fest, a weeklong virtual book festival in April with sweepstakes, author chats, and more.
10. MG and YA authors are hosting more Q&As
Some middle grade and young adult authors are making themselves available for more Q&As or impromptu chats to keep their young readers entertained during self-isolation. Bestselling authors Angie Thomas and Nic Stone hosted an impromptu Instagram Live chat where they answered fans’ questions.
R.L. Stine hosted an impromptu “ask me anything”–style chat on Twitter.
11. Authors and publishers are creating discussion guides
Some authors and publishers have been publishing discussion guides to foster conversations between kids and their friends or book clubs. Young adult author Suzanne Park, in collaboration with her publisher, Sourcebooks Fire, created a discussion guide for her debut novel, The Perfect Escape, which launched early in April.
12. Libraries and organizations are compiling COVID resource repositories for parents and educators
As you can tell, there are many educational resources now available. To help parents and educators find them all and determine the best fit for a child’s needs or interests, some organizations have developed COVID-19 repositories. Many libraries’ websites now include a COVID-19 resources page, and School Library Journal launched a COVID-19 publisher information directory to help librarians and educators know what resources are available.
We Need Diverse Books has also created a helpful page of COVID-19 resources, including a section of resources specifically for parents and educators.
How else have you seen the publishing community stepping up to help children and their parents? Let us know in the comments below!
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