Little Shira Josephson is using YouTube to bring stories to sick children around the country

By Jason Duaine Hahn
December 14, 2017 08:28 PM
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An 8-year-old girl is using her video series to bring dozens of books to kids battling serious illnesses.

While training to become a Junior Ambassador at Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles earlier this year, Shira Josephson came across a set of doors she wasn’t allowed to go through because the children on the other side were too sick for visitors. This stuck with Shira, and as she sat quietly in the car alongside her mother later that day, she remembered seeing the hospital’s reading area in the corner of the lobby. This gave Shira an idea: since the children couldn’t have visitors and were blocked off from the story area, she could read the kids stories by filming herself.

They could watch the videos from their rooms over YouTube, Shira thought, and they might feel some companionship in the process. A few weeks later, her series, Shira’s Story Corner, was born.

“I couldn’t say no, and we just learned as we went along,” Shira’s mother, actress Brooke Josephson, 37, tells PEOPLE. “It’s been exciting to watch her come up with all these ideas and to help her make them come to life. It’s obviously every parent’s dream to have your kid give back, but the way she’s really on it, and the ideas that she’s come up with, it’s great watching how people have responded to it.”

Credit: Brooke Josephson

At a pace of about every week since May, Shira has filmed a collection of videos on her YouTube channel for sick kids at Children’s Hospital L.A. and around the country. The videos are shot inside Shira’s radiant bedroom (thanks to her mom and a trusty iPhone), which is filled with a collection of pink and gray stuffed animals that sit under a colorful disco ball.

Shira reads from a variety of classic and entertaining books, such as Corduroy, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Paddington Bear, Peppa Pig and Pinkalicious, and she accepts requests from other kids and parents who have a particular book in mind. The videos are also a learning experience for Shira: whenever she comes across a word she doesn’t know, she’ll stop to jot it on a chalkboard to remind herself to look it up later, and seeing this will probably help other kids do the same.

According to her mother, Shira has admired books ever since she was introduced to reading at an early age.

Credit: Janet Mayer/Star Max/GC Images

“We would read to her every night before she went to bed. That’s all she’s ever known,” Josephson says. “Once she was able to read, she just took to it. She’s in a couple of book clubs where they once a month send her books. She’ll go through those, and then ask for more books to read right after!”

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Shira has become a philanthropist of sorts as a Junior Ambassador — Children’s Hospital L.A.’s program that offers kids and teens opportunities to represent and support the medical center — and she recently raised thousands of dollars for the hospital’s Walk L.A. event in June. By emailing friends and family and asking people at school, Shira was able to pull in $3,000 for the charity event on her very first day of fundraising. And she didn’t stop there — in two weeks, she increased that amount to a whopping $12,000.

Along with being a philanthropist an overall cool kid, she is also an author, having published her first book, The Girl on the Subway, in July of this year. Proceeds from the 24-page hand-drawn book — which was inspired by a girl Shira met in New York City on a family trip — benefit the hospital.

Josephson says she is immensely proud of her daughter, and she is also moved by the many patients and families that are continuing to persevere against the odds.

“The courage I’ve seen from the children and the parents when we’ve been involved at the hospital this past year is humbling,” she says.

Over the holidays season, young Shira plans on keeping busy in between her video shoots—she’s going to begin writing her second book, The Fickle Cat Called Pickles, which will feature a riveting story about cats and dogs who don’t get along, with a lesson about tolerance and acceptance despite their differences. This book, too, will benefit the children at the hospital. Despite the hectic schedule, she will keep in mind the impact her videos are making.

“If there’s one thing I could tell the children of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles,” Shira says, “I will do everything I can to make the videos special for you, so you don’t feel alone.”