Two of the nation’s favourite celebrity dads, singer and musician Harry Judd and reality TV star Greg Shepherd, have teamed up with their children for a new Thomas & Friends campaign, Reading with Little Friends, celebrating the storytelling magic of the world-famous children’s brand and showcasing the new toys and characters from the books and TV show.
In two videos recorded at their family homes earlier this month that have today gone live on the Thomas & Friends UK YouTube Channel, Harry’s children, Lola, 5, and Kit, 4, as well as Greg’s two kids, eldest Nelly, 8, and four-year-old Arthur, snuggle onto the sofa with their dads for some quality family reading time together. Lola reads aloud from the story book Thomas and the Rocket to Kit and her dad, whilst Nelly’s book of choice is Thomas and Percy’s Spooky Adventure, which she enthusiastically reads to Arthur and Greg.
The videos are designed to highlight the captivating tales featuring important life lessons for children that have remained at the heart of Thomas & Friends for over 75 years since the first Railway Series book written by Reverend W. Awdry was published in 1945. Thomas & Friends recently underwent a major revamp to appeal to contemporary audiences’ sensibilities while maintaining Thomas’ core message about the value of friendship.
The current Thomas & Friends TV series, ‘All Engines Go’, which airs around the world and in the UK on Channel 5 Milkshake!, reimagines the classic Thomas & Friends with a new storytelling approach and vibrant 2D animation. Integrated into the brand’s content are 26 different social-emotional, cognitive and physical life lessons. These life lessons include things like friendship, taking turns, teamwork, self-help and empathy, meaning the stories are both timeless and timely as well as inspiring to a broad audience – children, parents and caregivers alike.
Harry Judd, best-known for being in the popular band McFly, says: “I’m so happy to be part of Reading with Littles Friends with my kids Lola and Kit. We had loads of fun filming the videos and I’m really proud of Lola for her reading – and of Kit, for managing to stay still for the whole story!
“I’ve always been a fan of Thomas & Friends and really love how the stories are fun as well as teaching morals about being kind, helpful and working as a team – all things I’m constantly trying to teach the kids. Also having those moments when you play with Thomas & Friends toys and the kids are using their imaginations and really enjoying it and you’re enjoying it too, really allowing yourself to be childlike.”
Greg Shepherd, who appears with Nelly and Arthur and his wife Billie in ITV’s popular reality show The Family Diaries, comments: “Making the decision to be part of Reading with Little Friends was one of the easiest yeses we’ve had to make this year! The kids are massively into to Thomas & Friends, and I was when I was a kid, now we can enjoy it together. I love that they are going through the same process as me – watching the TV show, reading the books, and enjoying the toys. Some of the life lessons that I think are really important that I’d like to teach my kids are having a good group of friends when they are growing up, knowing what’s right and what’s wrong, and having good manners.”
To launch Reading with Little Friends, the Thomas & Friends brand commissioned a survey of 1,000 parents of young children to find out about the life lessons they most want to pass on to their kids and which key attributes they’d most like their youngsters to develop as they grow up – with honesty, good manners and self-confidence coming out on top. A quarter aspire for their offspring to have a good comprehension of emotions, while one in two would like their children to learn the art of ‘being kind to others’.
Loyalty, patience and optimism were also among the traits that featured in the top 20 list parents hope their children will develop. In fact, 79 per cent of those polled agreed it’s more important their little ones grow up with a good group of friends, than aspiring to be the next Prime Minister.
The research, conducted in February 2022, also revealed the words of wisdom mums and dads would want to impart on their little ones to help them achieve their goals in life, including “treat people as you’d want to be treated”. 69 per cent of parents surveyed would like to pass down their own learnings from their parents onto their offspring.
Books for their children, reading books to educate themselves, and sending their child to particular extra-curricular activities are among some of the ways parents are shaping their youngsters for the future. And 74 per cent also recognise the impact TV shows can have when it comes to influencing and shaping children into the adults, they’ll one day become. It also emerged 89 per cent of mums and dads questioned acknowledge the importance of reading stories to their children, with parents sitting down for story time more than four times a week, on average.