In March 2020, the pandemic suddenly canceled my weekly two-hour visits to the East Oakland preschool where I’d been doing storytimes since 2015. So, I recorded one single storytime video for the kids to watch at home… which became over 52 different storytime videos created over two years, addressing topics like consent, incarceration, disability activism, Blackness and fine arts, and plain old joy.
Since starting this project, I ran my first-ever fundraiser, raising $3200 and providing hot meals for over 300 of our neighbors in need through the efforts of Café Gabriela, St. James Infirmary, and East Oakland Collective. I made the decision to go back to school, earning my Associate Teacher Permit for working in preschools (not just volunteering!). I was granted my first-ever artist residency, at Riveropolis Studios, and I wrote and illustrated my first-ever picture book, Yonth & Ed In Grocery Switch. I also tracked and published demographic data about the authors and illustrators whose books I read, as well as the characters in the books, as a way of holding myself accountable to my goals of presenting my storytime kids with ‘mirrors’ of themselves and their experiences. I received some really incredible fan mail and fan art of myself (!). And, I hope, I got better at figuring out what makes a good storytime in our changing world, when we can’t always be in the same space with the people we care about and are trying to connect with.
I couldn’t have done any of this by myself. Thanks to Solitaire Miguel and Ramon Solis for taking on video production for the final few videos; thank you Emily Alden Foster for supporting me in everything I do; thanks to every grownup and kid — viewers like you! — who watched a video, shared a video, imitated a video, or otherwise spent some time with these videos and these books. Thanks to the authors, artists, agents and publishers who’ve shown their support for these videos. Thanks to my kid for being my audience member, cohost, and critic. Thanks to Oakland Public Library’s Books for Wider Horizons program for laying the foundation for this project. And thanks to my storytime kids and teachers at my volunteer site, who keep letting me know they’re watching and laughing along with me.
These videos will stay up for as long as I can keep them up. That’s a wrap! Let’s do something new together! — Mr. Channing
music in this video: ‘enoki village’ by leon chang