TV Talent Tries Reading to Kids

With most everyone stuck at home, some anchors have taken it on themselves to read books to children and are sharing their readings on social platforms. WTVT Tampa anchor Kelly Ring is doing so each weekday, as is Dana Perino, host on Fox News Channel shows The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino and The Five.

They’re finding an eager audience. “I’m amazed at the reaction,” Ring said. “I think it’s been important because kids need this.”

WTVT VP, news director John Hoffman approached Ring about reading to kids around the third week of March. “Kelly has a way with kids,” Hoffman said. “It’s true to her.”

Perino did her first “Storytime with Dana” March 19. The early ones happened at the Fox News Channel headquarters in Manhattan, and Perino soon started doing them from her home in New Jersey. She was speaking with friends, who mentioned the challenge of working from home and standing in as their children’s teacher. “I wondered if there was anything I could do to help,” she said.

The former White House press secretary under President George W. Bush, Perino recalled Laura Bush encouraging family reading time in the trying days after September 11.

The mother of three grown children, Ring anchors the 6 and 10 p.m. news on WTVT, known as Fox 13. As an anchor, she’s read at elementary schools “countless” times, she said. She records in her dining room, with Ring’s daughter serving as photographer. The posts go live on Facebook around 5:30 p.m. daily.

Ring’s readings average around seven minutes. Books have included The Ugly Duckling, The Giving Tree and Where the Wild Things Are. She got the biggest reaction from Love You Forever, which she said she had to read five times before finally keeping her emotions in check. “All these sweet books bring back so many memories,” Ring said.

Ring occasionally has guest readers, offering the slot to first responders. Police officers and nurses have taken part.

Perino does not have children, so there’s no stash of children’s books in her basement. Early on, her assistant ventured out to Barnes & Noble to grab books. “It just grew from there,” she said.

These days, she gets them from corporate sibling HarperCollins and from lawyer Bob Barnett, who represents several authors. Books she’s read include How to Walk Your Dump Truck. Perino reads for 10 to 15 minutes — usually one book, sometimes two.

Ring and Perino are not the only public figures reading to kids. Michelle Obama, for one, hosts the reading segment “Mondays with Michelle Obama.” Jimmy Fallon has read his book This Is Baby online and Betty White read Harry the Dirty Dog.

The anchors’ readings are connecting with more than children. Ring and Perino said they’d heard from elderly people, stuck at home, who love them. “I’ve gotten so many messages from older women who are home alone,” Ring said. “It’s such a blessing to hear that.”

Ring averages around 25,000 views per episode on Facebook.

With Perino’s segments appearing on a range of media, including streamer Fox Nation, Fox News’s YouTube channel and website and Facebook (the Fox News page and Perino’s own page), videos have averaged 354,000 views.

Perino doubts “Storytime” will continue after the world gets back to normal. “My days don’t have a lot of spare time in them,” she said.

Ring seems game to keep them going. “You’ll have to ask my boss that,” she said. “It seems like a great thing to continue.” (Hoffman said the future of the segments has not been discussed.)

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.