A few years later my brother said: “You’ve got to try again.” At the time he’d been having trouble sleeping and was watching online videos to help him fall asleep. He thought it would be nice if he could hear me reading aloud like I used to when he was younger, but on YouTube.
I had a flash of inspiration I’ll never forget. “Maybe I could do something,” I thought, even though I was terrified to even consider such a thing, after everything that had happened. But the next thing I knew my mind was going a mile a minute: “We’ll call it Michael’s Storytime!” Ideas for new songs started pouring into my head. I immediately knew how the show would be formatted, what the sets would look like, what kind of books I’d like to share and which topics we could address.
A few weeks later, I had a meeting with a local producer who I was sure was going to shut me down immediately. “He’s going to recognize me as that crazy Mr. Rogers kid and have me thrown out. I know it!” Instead he gave me some great advice, suggesting I forgo a bedtime story theme and make it so children could enjoy our program anytime.
Next, I needed to find books I thought worthy of being featured so I went to the library. I sat in a child size chair with my little field journal on my lap and started at one end of the children’s section and slowly made my way through the stacks. I felt like an archaeologist digging through mounds of books. I was disappointed when I only found a handful I really liked.
Then one day, I came across a beautiful little book shop (which has tragically since closed), dedicated solely to children’s books called Yellow Book Road. It was there I hit the jackpot and found lots of books I loved!
The owner allowed me to carefully go through her picture books to see which ones I liked best and I spent hours going through each book cover to cover. It was one of the happiest times of my life. I’d arrive mid-afternoon, go through five dozen or so picture books, go across the street and have lunch at one of my favorite sandwich places, then come back and go through another five dozen before closing.
“Do I like this?” I’d ask. “Do I like the characters? Is there a lesson about life that could be beneficial to children? Does this book demonstrate acts of compassion and care? Could this book be fun in the daytime as well as soothing at night?”
Once I had a book that met all my requirements, I researched who owned the film rights and sent a request to feature the book on Michael’s Storytime. The use of each book had to be negotiated and permissions received. Then the fun really started when I got to write the scripts for each episode.
Each episode featured one book and writing the scripts and the music was rewarding, but scary because I wanted to do the books justice. Each word of each script, each song, each note of music—everything—was done with a young child in mind.
I needed to speak in clear, declarative sentences that didn’t require a lot of deciphering. A professor of child development at my school helped me go through all the books and scripts to make sure everything seemed okay, and surprisingly not too much needed to be fixed.
Next, it was time to start filming. We filmed a test pilot to help me see how things could improve. Then, we filmed again making some adjustments. Then, we filmed a third time and made even more adjustments. And now I’ve finally saved up enough money and we’re ready to start filming again.
I know it can always look better; I could nitpick endlessly, as with any creative work. I’m never going to be totally satisfied. I just need to send it out into the world and let it go, which makes me feel both excited and terrified.
Michael’s Storytime is for those who could really benefit from another caring adult voice in their lives. Who may be home alone, like my brother’s and I were, and enjoy a comforting song and story. And one that’s not coming from a puppet or cartoon character, but a real child development major and preschool teacher, singing songs they wrote, reading books they like and having a real conversation about life.
Official Website: www.michaelkinsell.com