Today’s Creator Spotlight is going to be a fascinating journey into the world of reading and storytelling. I had the chance of meeting one of the best advocates for literacy, she is the Mysterious Storyteller, she is the creator of KidTime StoryTime! This Storyteller has an impressive resumé, not only that she is a Published Children’s Book Author, but she is a three-time Emmy-Award Winner with a wonderful cast of puppets! Today, we’ll be discussing the inspiration behind her brand, her brand new COVID-19 Project for Kids, the Importance of Literacy, and much more! Let’s get ready to meet the Storyteller!
Red: Can you tell us about KidTime StoryTime?
Storyteller: KidTime StoryTime is a labor of love. On our YouTube channel, we read books to children with so much humor, life, puppets, and spontaneity that kids can’t HELP but fall in love with reading and books! We’re creating the future literati! I’d say it’s a hybrid of performance art and reading, especially with our puppets and their many interjections! Simultaneously, we’re helping book creators get their excellent work out in front of youngsters while also helping parents and educators find the books that meet the needs of their children… whether it be for emotional growth, education, inspiration, entertainment, or all of the above! We love what we do and feel super lucky to be doing it! I refuse to “talk down” to children or put on some sort of cartoony, overacted, goofy act. No sir. I come by my goofiness authentically. 😉 And these children’s books are pretty great, so it’s easy to let my creativity and (not so) inner child run amok. One recent example is It’s Okay To Be A Unicorn. A book reading about being true to yourself with a dance break mid-story? Yes, please. Because dance partayyyyy!
Red: What was the inspiration behind KidTime StoryTime?
Storyteller: The channel was born in a tiny corner of our New York City apartment after my husband and I saw how much our young nephews loved my bedtime stories. I’ve always been a StoryTeller. I used to be a TV reporter, which is basically a storyteller for adults! But with the boys, we realized that kids – no matter how modern and sophisticated they seem – still crave the old-fashioned connection of storytime. But the obstacles! Parents are busier than ever! Maybe there’s a lack of time. Or a language barrier. Or a shortage of books in the home. There are a million reasons why kids need us and the connection that comes from this tradition. My husband and I decided we wanted to do this. It felt meaningful and gave us an incredible creative outlet.
Now the inspiration keeps flowing from every message we receive. I hear from kids who tell me how much they love my puppets, and how inspired they are in school and how much they now love to read books. I hear from parents and teachers who tell me about the impact I’ve made in their kids’ lives, giving them comfort during hard times, a daily dose of joy, or even helping them focus in ways they never did before. It feels magical. We’ve helped uplift kids and often made sense of their world and given them a happy place to call their own. How can we not be continually inspired? It motivates us over and over again to keep finding ways to do more and be better than we were yesterday. I personally remember how deeply inspired I was as a child by Mister Rogers. If I can be an iota of that for kids, I am more grateful than words can express.
Red: In two previous interviews you had, you discussed helping children during the Coronavirus Epidemic with stories, songs, puppets, and humor. How challenging was it to come up with material for it?
Storyteller: Not challenging at all, to be honest. I found stories that spoke to the jumble of emotions a kid might be feeling. Then stories specifically addressing the pandemic started being published, and I was able to read quite a few of those as well. And because I’m a creative, I found my own inspiration in the situation. I wrote the song WASHA WASHA WASHA, singing it with my puppets and creating a video, all to get kids to enjoy handwashing. I love to hear from parents who tell me they hear that song emanating from the bathroom everytime their kids are in there! I actually wrote another song for kids about dealing with the pandemic but just ran out of time to make it happen. While writing happens very quickly for me, my limited skills as a music producer means creating the tracks to record my songs can take several weeks. And TIME is the real challenge! But I’ve a whole bunch of songs patiently waiting for me to produce them, so you’ll definitely see more music coming in the future! In my future dream scenario, I’ll be able to hire musicians to crank out these songs as soon as they fall out of my brain. THAT would be amazing…
Here’s Washa Washa Washa, and another channel favorite, AlphaRAP!
Red: In a world of streaming, video games, and cell phones, how important is literacy for children?
Storyteller: Let me count the ways! Kids who read develop greater emotional resilience (to face life’s inevitable vicissitudes…like this pandemic), empathy (the opposite of bullying), and stronger reading comprehension, which in turn strengthens their ability to absorb ALL their school lessons, be it math, science, music, art… Virtually EVERYTHING we learn in school comes via reading. We’re giving children a stronger chance to achieve and excel. But kids don’t necessarily know it. What they DO know is that we’re making them laugh, piquing their curiosity, feeding their hunger to know things, opening up worlds, letting them dream, unleashing their creativity, singing and joking, and affirming their worth… I let kids know they are smart, strong, brave. I tell them they’re making the world a better place and encouraging them to spread joy, be unique, and work hard for their dreams. We need that fuel for the growing-up journey. I don’t think that’s quite the purpose of video games or some of the mindless, repetitive content I’ve seen aimed at children. I mean, you know what I’m talking about… It just means we need to work hard to make our brainy stuff as enticing as the other stuff!
Red: By offering a way for kids to learn through your brand with worksheets and ways for teachers to use the videos for lesson plans is a great way to promote literacy, are there any plans of reading and signing stories together for children deaf or hard of hearing?
Storyteller: What a great question! I’ve had a long-standing desire to learn to sign. It’s a beautiful language. Right now, the good thing is that since we put the books upon the full screen, anyone can read the page. But obviously, lip-reading isn’t possible with my puppets, so a deaf child would miss that dialogue. I know my descriptive style of reading has been wonderful for hard-of-seeing or blind children. But anything we can do in the future that allows for more kids to be able to read along with us is something we want to do. My original mini-movies and songs all have closed-captioning which I personally inserted, so that’s a start. But when we are able to move beyond a two-person operation and can get some help, I’d love to get accurate closed captions inserted on every video. Again, it’s part of our goal to keep getting better. Your question just assured me that this idea makes it on my To-Do list as we grow!
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