When stars tell stories

Updated: Jul 13, 2020, 10:28 IST | Dalreen Ramos | Mumbai

An online storytelling platform has Hollywood celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Rami Malek as narrators. And a parent-child duo we invited think it's the ideal activity during lockdown

A slide from The Coal Thief narrated by actor Christian Slater. Pics/youtube
A slide from The Coal Thief narrated by actor Christian Slater. Pics/youtube

Reading aloud a story to children isn't just any other ritual; it's a memory to be cherished when they grow older but also, more importantly, an effective learning tool for both parents and kids. With the two parties stuck at home in these times, children's literacy website Storyline Online streams videos featuring celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Rami Malek, Michelle Yeoh and many more, each reading a children's book alongside animated illustrations. The platform was a Daytime Emmy Award nominee and also was recognised by Notable Children's Digital Media this year. So, we invited Shreedevi Sunil, a city-based storyteller and former educator, along with her two children to give it a try.

Christian Slater
Christian Slater

Shreedevi admits that she enjoys picture books more than titles meant for adults, and that reading to her children is a regular activity. So, learning of a new storytelling avenue in the form of this website was a good addition to her reading kitty.

When you log on to the site, there are rows of different categories; the topmost comprises books about and by black voices (given the recent context of the Black Lives Matter movement), followed by featured and new titles. "I loved the design and the option of so many books — as parents there's always good-quality books that we tend to miss out on. When you click on a title, you get to read the gist of it and the celebrity also talks about it before proceeding to narrate the story," she shares.
The trio's pick was The Coal Thief (Rodina Press) written by Alane Adams, illustrated Lauren Gallegos and read by actor Christian Slater of Heathers (1988) fame. "For me, this was very cool because Slater belongs to the time of my youth," shares Shreedevi.

Shreedevi Sunil browses through the website with her sons
Shreedevi Sunil browses through the website with her sons

The title is about a little boy named Georgie who wakes up to a day when there is no coal to heat his family's farmhouse, and no money to buy it either. His friend Harley drags him to steal some coal from a train and he eventually learns to make amends for his mistake. "I really liked the story. The orator narrated it nicely. I'm looking forward to listening to more stories from this website," Shreedevi's 11-year-old says, while her seven-year-old excitedly declares, "My favourite part was when he [Georgie] sunk into the coal."

As a parent, Shreedevi asserts that the theme of the book addressed important questions: For instance, when a child steals, how do you reprimand them and make amends? "There are also activity guides at the end — one suggests questions you can ask your child like 'what would you do if your friend asked you to steal?' It's quite helpful because not all parents and teachers know what an open-ended question is," she explains. When the story concluded in 10 minutes, Slater got a tad emotional and shared his thoughts on the narrative. "This was great because it's always nice to have a discussion," she says, adding that they're all eager to listen to Trombone next while a copy of The Coal Thief is already in her Amazon shopping cart.

Oprah Winfrey reads The Hula-Hoopin' Queen
Oprah Winfrey reads The Hula-Hoopin' Queen

Log on to storylineonline.net

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