Local Celebrities Bring New Life to Books

Start a Celebrity Reader Program in Your School!

Celebrity Reader Miss Ohio 2015, Sarah Hider reads Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon.

As teachers, we generally have a very open love affair with books. Big books, small books, silly books, serious books, adult books, kid books...we love 'em all! 

How amazing and hilarious is this display from the Virginia Beach Public Library?!
Unfortunately, our students don't always agree. I work with children that don't have many books (if any!) in their home. They aren't read a story each night, they don't see adults modeling reading habits, they don't see reading for the life skill that it is. It's an unfortunate reality for many of today's children.

I'll never forget the moment this shocking truth hit me...I was a pre-service teacher observing in a HeadStart in inner city Pittsburgh. A brand new kiddo was wide-eyed as he experienced his first day of school. At one point in the day, he casually plucked Goodnight Moon off the shelf, and exclaimed, "What is this thing?" My heart broke as I realized this child had never come in close contact with a book before. 

Because of their lack of exposure at a young age (along with many, many other factors), a large percentage of my firsties are struggling readers. Picking up a book doesn't give them joy...it makes them feel anxious. Let's face it, deciphering the English language is hard work! It's our job as teachers to make reading as engaging and as interesting as we can so that those anxious feelings some of our students have turn into wild excitement. After all, reading books opens us up to corners of the universe we could have never possibly imagined! What a thrilling, beautiful power.

With the goal of getting kids excited about books, I started a celebrity reader program in my school three years ago. The idea was simple: At the start of the year, I'd reach out to local celebrities, asking them to come read to our kiddos and share about their job. After getting confirmations, I create a schedule for the year, making appointments with one celebrity reader a month. On the big day each month, our celebrity reads an amazing book and then answers questions about his or her job (and how it's essential to be a good reader for that job!). 

In its infancy, I could not have imagined the impact of this program on my students. Now, it's one of our most exciting days each month! We keep the identity of the celebrity reader a secret until he or she walks in the door, which really builds the anticipation. Even though the kids guess that Ninja Turtles, Bruno Mars, or Doc McStuffins are coming into read to us, they are never disappointed by our local celebrities. Kids also get an amazing real world connection; they learn about careers they may not know much about, and see how reading is important in those different jobs. 

Celebrity Reader Scrappy and his "handler" from the Mahoning Valley Scrappers read Bats at the Ballgame.

Start Celebrity Story Time in your school! 

1. First and foremost, get permission from your administrator. Your school may have rules about who can visit your school, what clearances they may need, and what times they can come in to visit. Luckily, our principal is very supportive of this program. We keep her updated of our schedule throughout the year, and run times and locations by her as needed.

2. Next, decide on the logistics. Who will the audience be? How often will celebrities visit? Where will you host your readers? What time will they visit? How long will they visit for? Our monthly Celebrity Readers visit the entire first grade (about 80 students) at once. We usually all squeeze into one classroom, but if a reader needs more space or a presentation area, we ask for permission to use our media center or high school auditorium. More often than not, the classroom works just fine. Our average reader stays for about 20 - 30 minutes. Some of our readers travel a bit further to see us, so we try to stretch their visit to make it worth their while. To accomplish this, we ask other grade levels if they are interested in a visit or have a "Celebrity Lunch" with the kids or staff.

3. The most exciting part is picking your celebrities. I promise that even the smallest of towns has a full host of local celebrities to choose from! Here are some amazing groups of people that we have had success with in the past:
  • Local News Personalities: Kids love to hear about reading on a teleprompter. These are some of the most expressive celebrity readers we have hosted!  
Celebrity Reader Derek Steyer from Channel 21 News reads Three Nasty Gnarlies.
  • Local Politicians: Politicians are always a huge hit with the kids, especially during an election year. "You're like the president of our city?! Whoa!"
Celebrity Reader County Commissioner Dan Polivka reads Duck for President.

  • Authors: Authors are always looking for schools to visit, but can sometimes come with big fees. Still, you may know of a local author who is willing to work with your students for free in exchange for promoting their book! Contact your local university...both our author visits have been from professors at my alma mater, Slippery Rock University!
Celebrity Reader Dr. Anne Slanina reads her book Annie Mouse Meets a New Friend.

  • Service Men and Women: These heroes are especially impacting around Veteran's Day. Students love to see them in full uniform!
Celebrity Reader Dr. Snyder reads his own book What is a Veteran, Anyway?

  • Athletes: It's likely that many of your students have dreams of growing up to play sports professionally. We were lucky enough to have a connection with a player for the Steelers. Not as well connected? Reach out to your local minor league team. High school athletes also make great role models. 
Celebrity Reader Mike Adams of the Pittsburgh Steelers with first grade staff.

  • Pageant Queens: As a former local titleholder in the Miss America Scholarship Program myself, I can tell you firsthand that these ladies are more than just "beauty queens." Most have platforms, or a social issue, that they are eager to spread awareness about! 
Celebrity Reader Gabriella Morando, Miss Michigan Junior High 2015, reads Chrysanthemum. 
  • Building Staff: Does someone at your building wear a different hat outside school hours? Show your students' a different side of a familiar teacher by inviting them in as a celebrity reader. The kids will go nuts! During my first year of teaching, I was still competing for Miss Ohio...at the end of the year, I visited my students as "Miss Clayland" instead of "Miss DePizzo." It was an amazing experience as a teacher and titleholder!
Celebrity Reader Jenna DePizzo (me!), Miss Clayland 2015, reads My Pal, Victor.

4. Once you have your list, it's time to contact those celebrities. I've found email to be most effective. Feel free to copy and paste this form email that I use for my initial contact with celebrities!

Hello! I hope you’re doing well!

I can’t believe another school year is starting up again! I am a (grade) teacher at (school) in the (district), located just outside (nearest city). I am looking for local “celebrity readers,” and thought instantly of you!

The (grade level) team is hoping to host one celebrity a month to read a book to the students. We hope “Celebrity Story Time” will not only encourage our students to read, but also show them many different kinds of jobs in the community. [Make a connection to the reader here, like this: We learn about the news and weather in first grade, and thought this would be a perfect connection.]

If it works for your schedule, we would love to have you come in one day this school year to read to our students. If you are interested, please let me know if a certain time of year works best for you. I look forward to hearing from you!

5. Then, it's time to coordinate your schedules and give further details. You may need to be flexible, depending on your reader's job. Morning might be best for a reporter, but terrible for an athlete. You'll want to be clear about the visit: How long should it last? What is expected? Are you picking out the book, or will they come with one? What topics would you like them to discuss?  

6. Before your celebrity arrives, spread the word! It's, of course, important to share the schedule with other teachers and your administration. You may also want to contact your local newspaper. Several of our celebrity readers have been featured in the local section of our newspaper!

Celebrity Reader Mackenzie Bart, Miss Ohio 2015 and ventriloquist, visit to teach about STEM.
7. Next, you'll want to make reminders. The week of the visit, send out a quick email to your staff and reader to remind them of the details of the visit. This ensures that everyone is on the same page schedule-wise. 

8. After all that planning, you're now ready to host celebrity readers at your school! Upon arrival, I send down a couple of students to greet our reader with a handshake to welcome them to our school. The celebrities get a kick out of that! Be sure to take lots of pictures, and post them to Instagram using the hashtag #CelebrityStoryTime. 

9. Be prepared to help monitor behavior and lead the discussion during and after the reading! Depending on your reader's background, he or she may not be comfortable addressing students' chattiness or other behavior issues during their reading. In addition, they might not be sure how to steer the kids into asking meaningful questions. That's where you should step in!

Celebrity Reader Miss Ohio 2015, Sarah Hider reads Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon.

10. After each visit, be sure to send thank you notes! No matter how big or small your celebrity's status, they've taken time out of their day to spend time with your kiddos and enrich their love of reading. Whether it be heartfelt thanks from the teacher, a group note from the class, or individual letters, thank yous are a must! They also help build a relationship with the celebrity reader...you may have some you'd like to invite back year after year.

How do you get your students excited about reading? Do you have a similar program at your school already? Thinking about starting your own Celebrity Story Time, but need some more direction? I'd love to hear about it in the comments! Remember to tag your photos with #CelebrityStoryTime so I can check out what's going on in your school! 


  1. Brilliant idea! I haven't thought of this idea in forever. Great tips, too.

  2. I love this idea!!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I absolutely LOVE the idea of having a celebrity reading program at school. Thank you for laying out some logical steps to get started. Great ideas. Jen :)

  4. How fun - awesome idea, and lots of practical tips too!


Home Meet the Teacher Freebies Shop Contact Me Image Map Instagram Pinterest TpT Back To Top