Oscar-Winning Actress Viola Davis Reads the Children’s Story, Rent Party Jazz, for Jazz Appreciation Month

FYI: In hon­or of Jazz Appre­ci­a­tion Month, Vio­la Davis treats us to a read­ing of Rent Par­ty Jazz, a chil­dren’s book writ­ten by William Miller and illus­trat­ed by Char­lotte Riley-Webb. Here’s a quick syn­op­sis of the sto­ry:

This sto­ry is set in New Orleans in the 1930s. Son­ny and his moth­er are scrap­ing by to pay their rent. Mama works in a fish can­ning fac­to­ry, and Son­ny works for the coal man before school each morn­ing. When Mama los­es her job, they no longer have enough mon­ey for the rent and fear that the land­lord will turn them out. One day Son­ny meets Smilin’ Jack, a jazz musi­cian who is play­ing his trum­pet in Jack­son Square. Smilin’ Jack offers to play at a par­ty at Sonny’s house to help raise mon­ey for the rent. The neigh­bors all come to sing and dance and before they leave, drop some coins in a buck­et. Son­ny learns how peo­ple can help one anoth­er “if they put their minds and hearts to it.”

For any­one not famil­iar with them, rent par­ties start­ed in Harlem dur­ing the 1920s, when jazz musi­cians would play at a friend’s apart­ment to help them raise enough mon­ey to pay the rent. If you hop over to the web­site of Yale’s Bei­necke Library, you can see a col­lec­tion of rent cards that belonged to Langston Hugh­es.

This video comes from the Sto­ry­line Online Youtube Chan­nel, spon­sored by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s children’s lit­er­a­cy web­site. The chan­nel fea­tures cel­e­brat­ed actors “read­ing children’s books along­side cre­ative­ly pro­duced illus­tra­tions, help­ing to inspire a love of read­ing in chil­dren.”

Vio­la Davis’ read­ing will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Stars Read Clas­sic Children’s Books: Bet­ty White, James Earl Jones, Rita Moreno & Many More

Enter an Archive of 6,000 His­tor­i­cal Children’s Books, All Dig­i­tized and Free to Read Online

Langston Hugh­es Reveals the Rhythms in Art & Life in a Won­der­ful Illus­trat­ed Book for Kids (1954)

Mis­ter Rogers Turns Kids On to Jazz with Help of a Young Wyn­ton Marsalis and Oth­er Jazz Leg­ends (1986)

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