'How have I never heard of this?': Toronto Public Library program reads children bedtime stories

A mother reads to her daughter at the Toronto Public Library’s High Park location in 2010. The Dial-a-Story program makes it possible for children to be read stories on the phone at no cost. Photo from Getty Images.

It’s the end of a long day, your child cuddles up beside you in bed and asks you to read a bedtime story.

You could open up a book and start reading, or you could give the Toronto Public Library a call and have them do it for you.

The Dial-a-Story program has been around since 1989 thanks to support from the Toronto Public Library Foundation. The library aims to “nurture a love of stories, language and imagination” by having people read stories to anyone who calls their Toronto-based number. 

The initiative began making waves again when the Toronto Public Library tweeted about it last week, resulting in hundreds of likes, retweets and comments in response. Most of the responses featured eager parents or nostalgic former users of the program.

There are more than 700 stories available in 16 different languages for children of all ages. 

Books can be read in English, French, Polish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Russia, Italian, Gujarati, Somali, Spanish, Korean, Tamil, Tagalog, Mandarin, Persian and Urdu. The program is so popular, there are already requests for more languages to be added.

“Anyone can call the line,” Toronto Public Library communications officer Michelle Leung told Yahoo Canada via email. “When you phone, you’ll be asked what language you want to hear the story in and you make that selection on your keypad. Give it a try, very easy!”

Leung noted some stories are catered to acknowledge different cultural celebrations throughout the year, including Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month and the winter holiday season.

All you have to do is pick up the phone and dial 416-395-5400. Depending on where you are located, long distance charges may apply.

Twitter users were eager to thank the library for offering a potential “game changer” for parents.

“How have I never heard of this?! I can finally put my sad narrative skills to rest and enjoy the story along with the kids,” Chantal Girard commented.

“My teenager still talks about Dial-a-Story and what a great program it is! Glad it’s still going strong!” Tash Smith chimed in.

“Remember these as a kid. Mom would have me sit on the edge of her bed and dial in. It’s how my mom credits me for learning English,” Andrew Do wrote.