Pandemic Bedtime Stories | ACTC

Pandemic Bedtime Stories

by Jonathan Joy - February 23, 2022

My son and I read over 40 books in the award-winning, educational Who Was series in 2020 and 2021.  They're awesome.  Interesting and informative.  Well written and minimally, though nicely, illustrated.  

These reads are geared at kids ages 8-12, though I promise they’re just as fun for someone in his mid-forties.   

They were especially important at the time, given the precarious state of the world in Spring 2020, when my son and I began this literacy journey.  

We had just finished all the Dog Man books and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  They were fun and entertaining.  You can't go wrong with a half dog, half human police officer, or a classic treasure hunt.

The world changed, though.  The planet was locked down, suffering, and America was embroiled in social and political upheaval.

Our reading habits shifted, too.  

All in the Joy household were obsessed with Lin Manuel Miranda's musical Hamilton at the time, and those Broadway showtunes quite often blared loudly.  Perhaps reading about history was the next, natural step.  

It was illuminating, insightful, and a nice escape, as we time travelled each night, reading and learning about the best and worst of the world, the most amazing advancements, the brightest and most dangerous people, places, and events in human history.  From ancient wonders to that famous speech by Martin Luther King, Jr, from Susan B. Anthony’s fight for women’s suffrage to Greta Thunberg’s calls for climate change activism, we were at one with the world’s most important people and movements.  All through the magical, mesmerizing pages of those Who Was books.       

The lessons therein put current events in perspective.  These books sparked important conversations about freedom, equality, inclusion, and justice - conversations that are as just as important to have with a 10- or 11-year-old than with an adult. 

It was reading time between parent and child, too, which is so vital.  It fosters knowledge, togetherness, communication, social and cultural development, and so much more.  

As a bonus we were supporting small businesses and libraries in the area.  When we did eventually venture out from the grasp of lockdown and virtual school, the only place we went often, for a while any way, was The Inner Geek.  

Every time we’d buy two or three of these books.  I ordered some online from local Cicada Books, by way of Bookshop, as well.  Local libraries carry some in this well-known series.  Our ACTC Library has a terrific Who Was book on Harvey Milk that is a Pride month must read.     

Reading is important.  Reading about history is as crucial now as ever.  Reading to kids is everything.

Our past is preserved in the words on the pages of these and many other similar books, and that past influences who we are and how we behave today.  Maybe most importantly, the future depends on our understanding of what has come before.  

That’s a lesson I hope my son takes away from those many 2020 and 2021 nights, when our pandemic bedtime stories were chiefly those nonfiction tales of the ways of our world.


022322-jon-joy A three-time First Among Peers Teaching Excellence Award winner, Jonathan Joy has taught at ACTC for 11 years.  He currently serves as Associate Professor of English/Writing for the college. Writing credits include 50 plays, 150 children’s stories, and dozens of attempts at poetry.  Joy’s Read Me A Bedtime Story column for the Ashland Beacon won a 2020 Kentucky Press Association award. The children’s stories therein are also featured on the Professor Theo's Mystery Lab podcast (  Joy lives in Huntington with his wife, son, and dog.