The Chicago Public Library sent up a bat signal of sorts after closing all branches in March, and some big names have answered the call — including Oprah Winfrey and Barack and Michelle Obama.
Library officials asked dozens of celebrities with links to Chicago to film themselves reading children’s books — content that kids could watch on the library’s Facebook and Instagram accounts from home during the pandemic.
The library on Wednesday announced the latest additions to their growing collection: a video of the Obamas reading “The Word Collector” that posted Thursday morning and Winfrey’s rendition of “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse” is set to post Monday.
“It’s a way to reach people, to bring the love of stories and books to families,” said Chicago Library Commissioner Andrea Telli.
Live From the Library: The Obamas!
Chicago Public Library is thrilled to welcome Barack Obama and Michelle Obama to #LiveFromTheLibrary! Tune in Thursday morning at 10 AM CST to see Chicago’s own former President and First Lady read The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds. We’re honored to have President and Mrs. Obama support our commitment to early literacy and join us as we connect to children in Chicago and beyond through story time.Posted by Chicago Public Library on Thursday, May 14, 2020
Library officials behind the “Live From the Library” project began posting videos in April. The collection includes nearly 20 videos — with dozens more to come — featuring both celebrities and Chicago librarians reading stories. A new video is being posted each weekday.
Videos of musician and Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, actress Jane Lynch, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Cardinal Blase Cupich are already online.
Others expected to go online in the coming days and weeks include actors John C. Reilly, Henry “The Fonz” Winkler, Bonnie Hunt, Denise Richards and musicians Common and Pete “Fall Out Boy” Wentz.
Sister Jean Dolores Schmidt, the Catholic nun and uber booster of Loyola University Chicago’s basketball program, is also on board, and songstress Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child fame has signed on.
Participants from the world of sports include Blackhawks player Zack Smith, former Bear Israel Idonije and former professional softball pitcher Jennie Finch.
The project is an outgrowth of virtual story sessions librarians were already hosting for local patrons combined with a request from Lightfoot for a citywide effort to get kids involved with reading.
Telli said it was a testament to the city that so many former Chicagoans chose to participate.
“They feel the way we feel about Chicago. I think it says a lot about roots and the way the city stays with you,” Telli said.
Winfrey and the Obamas have a special connection to the city’s libraries.
A new library branch is slated to go inside the Obama Presidential Center when it’s built on the South Side.
And Winfrey donated $100,000 to the library’s fundraising arm in 1991 to fund an endowment to keep award-winning children’s books on library shelves that continues to be tapped to this day.