Lindsay Edwards reading to daughter Madden
Toy industry publicist Lindsay Edwards worked her clients nonstop during last week's Toy Fair at the Javits Center, but when the single mother of two young girls returned home to Florida she also returned to her new outside project: her own Just One More Story YouTube channel of children's stories.
"I was rasied by an amazing teacher mother--and CPA dad—and we had only one TV in the house—and to this day I have only one TV in the house!" said Edwards during a Toy Fair break. "But I don't watch TV: I love to read, and when I was pregnant, before I bought my future baby toys, I'd collected over 100 children's stories. So reading was my thing."
Indeed, Edwards even "read to my pregnant belly!"
"Yes, I was one of those!" confessed Edwards. "After [eldest daughter] Madden was born, we read and acted out books. I wanted her to know all the classics—and now that's what my daughters love."
But by the time Madden was in first grade she was also reading biographies of the likes of Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Abraham Lincoln and Anne Frank.
"For Halloween one year, she was Anne Frank!" said Edwards. "Another time she read a Helen Keller biography and went as Hellen Keller—and closed her eyes to get the full effect, walking with a stick and with her best friend guiding her. So reading is the biggest part of our life together."
Madden was seven and her sister Linden four when Edwards went through a difficult divorce three years ago.
"The little one had never been away from me and was worried about going to a new home to visit her father--and just the disruption of the family routine in general," recalled Edwards. "But her biggest concern was who would read her bedtime stories!"
So Edwards devised a means of reading to her daughters when they were away.
"I could have sent along books, but it wouldn't have been the same," she said. "So I started filming myself reading books on Madden's phone, and they absolutely loved it and started making requests, and I read them and they started piling up on the phone and I saw how it changed them--how they looked forward to them.
"So I surprised them by incorporating funny things like puppets, or for a story about a pet, bringing in our pet or making a rock pet. And I started thinking that with such a high divorce rate, I'm not the only person in this situation—being left in a tough spot without my kids for the first time and feeling empty—and that there were other kids who have never even curled up in an adult's lap and had books read to them."
Edwards noted how children have "access to junk on YouTube or online or games, but not all of them have access to books. You'd be surprised how many don't have books at home."
So she started Just One More Story "not just to benefit my kids but all other kids out there who don't have somebody to read to them or are missing a parent or their parents are incarcerated or away. Kids need that familiar voice—and I provide mine on a channel for them to go to for stories at bedtime."
Edwards, who identifies herself as "Storyteller & Bookworm" in relation to her new role, put up Just One More Story last May without any fanfare.
"I wasn't sure if people would find my voice annoying—or me annoying!" she said. "Then I decided I didn't' care, and with my daughters' encouragement, started telling people about it."
In January, Edwards posted the channel's availability via Facebook, and now it's on the verge of taking off.
"I got a great reaction, and now I'm almost at 10,000 views--from all over the world--of approximately 70 stories, and I'm trying to upload a new one every day. I'm just blown away that I'm able to reach this many people, hoping to fill the same void that my children had."
Having set up a makeshift video studio in Madden's bedroom, Edwards has recorded herself reading such children's book classics as The Very Hungry Caterpillar,The Giving Tree—for which she created a character by taping googly eyes onto an apple taken from the fridge, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie (it starred the family's pet mouse) and The Runaway Beard (their pet bearded dragon made an appearance "and by chance ran away at the right time!").
"I try to project the feeling of sitting on my lap as I read the story to you, with us flipping the pages together," said Edwards. "I also take special requests: Send me your favorite book title, and I'll read it!"
She also encourages children to go to the library ("a lot of kids don't even have a library card!") or make use of Little Free Library, the nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading, builds community, and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world. Citing a campaign begun by 11-year-old African-American girls in New Jersey to obtain books more geared to their culture and experience, she hopes to be able to support those efforts elsewhere.
"There's so much more we could be doing," said Edwards, who always has a stack of books in her car to give out to people she spots waiting in the heat at bus stops. "Garage and church sales sell books for practically nothing, and I try to find Spanish books for those who only speak Spanish. But I mostly want books with good, positive messages, and hope to extend them beyond my YouTube channel."
Lindsay Edwards reads "There Was An Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" at "Just One More Story" YouTube channel