School closures across the country are forcing more and more teachers to switch to remote learning for their classes. As a member of a family with several elementary school teachers, and the parent of a six-year-old, I understand how important it is for young students to have face-to-face interaction with their teachers. Beyond any increased learning that take place when students can see and receive hands-on instruction and feedback from teachers, the simple fact of being able to see and hear from their teachers directly helps to reassure students that their teachers are still there to help and guide them, an important and bolstering message for them to receive during these uncertain times.
As the Library’s poetry and literature specialist, last week I received an Ask a Librarian inquiry from a teacher interested in continuing face-to-face reading activities with her students. She asked:
During this time, as teachers we are planning distance learning for our students as schools are closing. Is there a list of authors that give permission to teachers to video themselves reading their books to post for online lessons?
This question is not as simple ask it looks: While the COVID-19 pandemic has led many authors to offer free online “storytimes” in which they live stream or record themselves reading books for students, U.S. copyright law makes it less clear which contemporary children’s books teachers themselves are permitted to read to their students as part of their online programming. Typically, permission needs to be obtained from the book’s publisher or author, one of which is likely to control the rights to the work. Usually, starting with the book’s publisher is the best option.
The process of obtaining permission from a publisher for any form of reuse of their works is often time-consuming. Fortunately, and encouragingly, many publishers have recently begun to grant teachers permission to live stream or record themselves reading books to their students as part of storytime or read-aloud sessions. Several online resources now offer compilations of which publishers are granting these permissions to teachers, and specific restrictions that may apply. These include:
- School Library Journal, whose article “Publishers Adapt Policies To Help Educators” will be regularly updated when new information from publishers becomes available;
- A resource page, ”Publisher Guidelines on Fair Use for Online Storytimes & Read-Alouds during COVID-19 School Closures,” from teacher and children’s author Kate Messner; and
- Publisher’s Marketplace, which offers a reference page on “Publisher Permissions for Online Read-Alouds and Storytime.”
Each of these resources, for instance, directs educators to Penguin Random House’s statement on “Open License Online Story Time and Classroom Read-Aloud Videos and Live Events” to learn more about how they can use Penguin Random House books for storytime events.
If you aren’t sure whether you have permission to offer a virtual storytime for your favorite read-aloud book, try checking its publisher’s or author’s official website to see if one of them has a released a statement about read-aloud permissions.
More generally, you can also try searching Twitter on a string such as permission teachers share to locate additional authors who have granted permission. For example, I learned through Twitter that the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jason Reynolds, confirmed with his publishers the circumstances under which teacher recordings of his books may be made.
Though this post is focused on teacher-led read-alouds and storytimes, there are of course many virtual storytimes being offered by public libraries, publishers, and individual authors. I encourage you to contact your local public library to learn more about some of the storytime opportunities available to you, and your students, through it.