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Literacy in America

Julie Andrews Teams Up With Her Daughter to Advocate for Children’s Literacy

Photos: Courtesy of David Rodgers

With their new podcast, “Julie’s Library,” Julie Andrews and her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton continue to champion diversity in children’s literacy.

Dame Julie Andrews is as enterprising as ever. Teaming up with her daughter Emma Walton Hamilton, the mother-daughter duo has written over 30 children’s books together. Now, after launching their new podcast, “Julie’s Library,” Andrews and Hamilton continue to advocate for diversity in literacy.

“You cannot imagine what a gift it is to me to work with my daughter,” Andrews said. “I just enjoy it. It’s actually the thing keeping us most occupied these days.”

A love for literature

Both Andrews and Hamilton credit Andrews’ father for instilling a love of literature. “He was a teacher, and he loved to teach English literature,” Andrews said. “I didn’t see my father very much, but I do remember that he always had a poem to tell me or a story to give me whenever I would visit with him.”

“We were both avid writers as kids,” Hamilton said of her and her mother. “Mom wrote a lot of stories to entertain herself when she was growing up, and I did the same.”

Andrews published Mandy, her first book, in 1971. “That book was such fun for her to write,” Hamilton said. “Many years later, when she was talking to her publisher in the late-1990s, her publisher asked if she had considered writing something for much younger children.”

Andrews asked her daughter what her grandson Sam, then one-year-old, would want to read about, and Hamilton gave Andrews the idea of trucks. “Mom said, let’s try writing one together, and that was our first book, Dumpy the Dump Truck,” Hamilton said.

As well as Dumpy the Dump Truck, Andrews and Hamilton have written several series of children’s books including the New York Times bestseller, The Very Fairy Princess, and the Little Bo books about a well-traveled cat. Hamilton’s book, Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment, won a Parent’s Choice Gold Medal.

Julie’s Library

Their latest venture is their podcast, “Julie’s Library,” in which Andrews and Hamilton read out some of their favorite children’s books. “Once the virus hit, we realized we needed to get it out there because it would be such a help to parents and children who needed some kind of entertainment,” Andrews said.

“We’ve long been passionate advocates for literacy because we’re such avid readers and writers ourselves,” Hamilton added. “Between writing books and looking for ways to adapt our books for readers to other mediums, podcasting seemed to be the next logical step for us.”

It was important for both Andrews and Hamilton to consider diversity with their podcast. “We wanted every listener to hear themselves reflected somewhere in the stories we tell on our podcast,” Hamilton said, “and invite conversations with things that kids deal with on a daily basis, whether it’s coping with the first day of school, learning how to write a story, celebrating your culture, your nationality, or your gender expression, whatever it may be. We really wanted to invite those conversations.”

Hamilton and Andrews also encouraged parents to continue those conversations with their own children. “On any given page, ask your child, ‘What do you think is going to happen next?’ or, ‘How does that make you feel?’” Hamilton said. “Those kinds of questions will invite conversations well beyond the book itself.”

The simple act of reading with your child at an early age can help set up their appreciation of literacy for life. “I think there’s hardly anything more important than sitting a child down on your lap and tracing the pages of a book,” Andrews said. “I know my kids and my grandchildren just love it, and I’m sure millions of other children do too.”

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