Calling All Divas: Australia’s National Simultaneous Storytime

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Ann-Marie Cahill


Ann-Marie Cahill will read anything and everything. From novels to trading cards to the inside of CD covers (they’re still a thing, right?). A good day is when her kids bring notes home from school. A bad day is when she has to pry a book from her kids’ hands. And then realizes where they get it from. The only thing Ann-Marie loves more than reading is travelling. She has expensive hobbies.

Grab your glitter, bring out your boas, and put on those dancing shoes! It’s Australia’s National Simultaneous Storytime and no matter where you are, YOU are invited! This year marks the 20th Anniversary of my favourite reading event, and I am in love with the choice of book: Whitney and Britney: Chicken Divas by Lucinda Gifford.

What is the National Simultaneous Storytime?

Every year, the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) chooses a picture book to be read simultaneously in libraries, schools, preschools, childcare centres, homes, bookshops, and even playgrounds—anywhere! The picture book is always written and illustrated by an Australian author and illustrator. Every choice is based on key learning areas of the National Curriculum for Foundation to Year 6 (completion of primary school in Australia). Most importantly, the books are FUN!

With each year, the National Simultaneous Storytime has grown into a vibrant event across the nation and around the world. The aim is to promote reading and literacy for kids while showing their influencing carers how much fun reading can be when we do it together. Libraries often host kids parties, with craft and activities to compliment the books. Schools sometimes host parades for cosplay or dramatic reenactments. In 2019, ALIA reported the biggest and most successful National Simultaneous Storytime with 1,138,000 registered participants at over 11,500 locations all around the world. Big wave to New Zealand, Thailand, United Kingdom, Singapore, Vietnam, and Hong Kong.

cover for Whitney and Britney Chicken DivasWhitney and Britney: Chicken Divas by Lucinda Gifford

The book chosen for 2020 is Whitney and Britney: Chicken Divas by Lucinda Gifford. This book is a lot of fun! Whitney and Britney are two chickens who live with Dora. Every morning, Dora greets them and hopes to spend time with her favourite chickens. However, Whitney and Britney are too tired! Why? Because they sneak out at night and have an alternate life as Chicken Divas! So what will happen when Dora finds out?

How Can I Join In?

The simultaneous storytime will be on Wednesday 27 May 2020 at 11:00 a.m. Australian Eastern Standard Time. This year, though, is a little different.

Due to COVID-19 social isolation, most public libraries will not be hosting the event, nor will they be providing craft activities for the kids. Since many Australian schools have only reopened full-time as of Monday 25 May, most teachers will not have had the time to prepare for this event. To be perfectly honest, you would be hard-pressed to find any venue ready. *insert sad chicken face*

However, the good news is we are living in a digital world! ALIA wants to offer everyone the opportunity to participate. You can register your interest for free on the ALIA website here and from Monday 25 May they will send you a variety of electronic downloads to support your reading event—be it at home, in the playground, or anywhere you are allowed to read with social distancing.

DIY Craft For All Chicken Divas

ALIA isn’t the only one bringing the bling to the party! Many libraries, bookstores, and children groups are sharing their best craft ideas in preparation for the event. You still have time to join in!

  • ABC Australia’s Play School is hosting storytime with Denise Scott, starting at 11:00 a.m. AEST Wednesday 27 May on ABC iView and ABC Kids.
  • City of Sydney Library will be hosting an online reading (details are on their event page). They also have links to DIY cardboard tiaras to make prior to the event.
  • NSS partner Clever Patch has provided a free electronic book with craft ideas including disco balls, cardboard microphones, dancing paper chickens.
  • ACT Libraries have brought in their own divas, along with a fun competition for the best dressed Chicken Divas.
  • Camden Library has a collection of art activities as well as educational materials (handy for those learning from home during COVID-19)

Twenty years of reading together is an amazing achievement for any association, especially the ALIA. Every year it grows bigger and better while empowering anyone and everyone to make reading fun. It’s easy to join in, no matter where you are in the world. Share your photos and Chicken Divas on social media with #NSS2020 and #1MillionKidsReading.