Fernando González, digital director of Make Way for Books is one of several staff members leading online story times.  

Editor's note: This story was last updated on Friday, April 17. 

For lots of kids and families local story times are a big part of their social calendar. 

Kids get to hear new books, build their vocabulary, sing songs, dance around and do other activities with other kids. And parents and caregivers get to join in the fun and learning, too. 

With some physical spaces closed and social distancing measures in place, local organizations and storytellers are still finding ways to connect with their regular families and new audiences through virtual programs.

For six-year-old Fiona, her toddler brother and their mom Kelley, watching the daily storytimes posted by Make Way for Books has become part of the family's at-home learning routine. 

"Fiona loves the energy and joy that comes through from the storytime teachers," Kelley wrote in an email. "Thania and Fernando have a way of making kids feel included and special, as well as important to the story being told. That’s what makes a great children’s storyteller — actually including [the kids]. Fiona loves answering their questions and noticing the details with them. It’s not like anyone is asking her for a right answer, they are sharing something they love."

Fiona also loves spreading joy with others and was so inspired by the videos she decided to make her own storytime video, which Make Way for Books shared on its Facebook page. 

“I thought it would be fun and exciting, and most of all make people happy,” Fiona told her mom. 

Here are some of the Tucson organizations making staying at home fun and exciting for pre-K and elementary school kids until we can all meet up again.

Make Way for Books

This Tucson early literacy organization is livestreaming daily bilingual online storytimes hosted by its skilled team of literacy specialists in a Facebook group. Staff are sharing some of their favorite picture books and books that parents can download for free and use to follow along with on Make Way for Books app. The story time also includes songs, movement activities and other ways to continue the learning at home through activities available on the app. 

When: Daily at 10:30 a.m. 

The storytime livestream and archived videos can be found here. The free Make Way for Books app can be downloaded for Apple devices here and for Android devices here

Kore Press Institute

Every weekday Kore Press Institute is hosting a story/writing hour with a diverse lineup of local writers, librarians and educators who lead 30-minute Facebook Live sessions for children in pre-K through third grade. "The focus of our story hour/writing hour is diverse children's literature and we are bringing kids and our communities together through inclusive story telling and sharing," Kore Press executive Director Lisa Bowden wrote in a Facebook messenger exchange. 

Previous guests have included Gertie Lopez from the San Xavier Learning Center and Library and the frontwoman of the Waila band Gertie & the T.O. BOYZ, Jennifer Chee an early childhood educator on the Navajo Nation and Adiba Nelson, author of "Meet Clarabelle Blue." 

When: Monday-Friday, 12:30 p.m. 

The schedule and links can be found here

Children's Museum Tucson

The friendly faces you usually see at the Children's Museum Tucson and Oro Valley are sharing videos consistent with the museums' usual Wee Play and Wee Wiggle programs every day of the week.

The museum is sharing the daily videos on both the Children's Museum Tucson and Children's Museum Oro Valley Facebook pages and also adding them to the museum's new YouTube channel. A mindfulness exercise goes up on Monday mornings, storytime videos go up at 9:30 a.m. on the Children's Museum Tucson page and 10 a.m. on the Oro Valley page on Tuesdays through Thursdays and Wee Wiggle movement and yoga videos are posted Fridays on both pages. 

When: Monday-Friday, videos go up at different times.

See all the videos on the museums' YouTube channel here

Pima County Public Library

While the library isn't posting storytime videos, it is bringing its popular Ready, Set, School program online to help children ages 4 to 5 learn skills to help prepare them for kindergarten.

"There are already so many great online storytime offerings both in our community and also nationally that we decided to focus our efforts on providing the types of programs that are not as readily available," says Kendra Davey, PCPL's literacy initiatives program manager. "We have been working on revising our new and very successful in person school readiness program, Ready, Set, School!, to be an online program. Ready, Set, School! is an engaging program for children and their caregivers to learn and practice the thinking skills children will need to become successful learners when they start school."

When: Fridays starting April 17 from 10-10:45 a.m. 

Find the program on the Pima County Public Library Facebook page

Mildred & Dildred

Mildred & Dildred owner Autumn Ruhe is keeping Tucson kids supplied with "isolation survival kits" and fun new toys and games through curbside pick up and delivery. She's also sharing a wide variety of picture books on her near daily virtual storytime videos posted on the Mildred and Dildred Facebook page. Videos filmed in the store's book section typically go up in the morning and Ruhe's recent reads have included "Uni the Unicorn," "Hedgehugs" and "The Cutest Baby in the Desert" which she authored. 

When: Monday, Wednesday and Friday around 9 a.m.  

Find all the videos on the store's Facebook page

University of Arizona BookStores

The UA BookStores is sharing "Storytime at Home" videos in Spanish and English, once a week or as often as possible. Two videos are up so far and two others are on the way and they're hosted by Yadhi Acevedo who leads the monthly in-store programs. The book store posts videos on its Facebook page, usually on Saturdays, and also includes links to activities families can do from home in the comments. 

When: Saturdays, when possible.

Videos can be found on the BookStore's Facebook page

Fox Tucson Theatre 

The Fox Tucson Theatre's Kids in the Theatre program director, Jordan Wiley-Hill is also a professional storyteller and former educator and he's weaving together his skills for a weekly storytelling performance.  A new story is shared each week and Wiley-Hill also shares theatre games and activities to help kids manage stress and anxiety and focus on mindfulness. The program is geared toward students in kindergarten through fourth grade. Learn more about the program and the next story here

When: Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.

Videos are posted on the Fox's Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Mr. Nature's Music Garden

Kid fave, Mr. Nature is still at it with silly songs and stories he shares on his Story Jams session on Instagram live. He can also be heard on his weekly Little Leaf Radio Show Sundays on Downtown Radio online or on 99.1 FM.  

When: Story Jams is on Instagram live Tuesdays at 10 a.m. The Little Leaf Radio show is Sundays from 7-9 a.m. 

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