Depending on where you live, you and your family are likely well over a month into quarantine. Even the most prepared parent or caregiver is probably running low on new, fun books to read. Libraries and schools across the country are closed, most bookstores are closed (although many are offering curbside pickup or delivery, so do try to support them if you are financially able), and even Amazon deliveries are delayed understandably in order to focus on essential shipping needs.
With many families facing very tight and sometimes dire financial circumstances right now, creative ways to get free books into the hands of children have never been more needed.
Fortunately, the literary world is responding. This includes authors, publishing companies, local libraries, and even neighbors making porch drop-offs. This is by no means a comprehensive list of services to help your family access books, but it’s a great starting point.
- Your local public library: If you have a library card, you likely have access to audio and digital book subscription services via your library’s website. Every library is operating during this pandemic a little differently, but do check in with their website or on social media, as it is likely your library is ramping up its online/virtual/digital offerings.
- Little Free Libraries: Take a walk and see if there are any Little Free Libraries in your neighborhood. Be sure to donate a book from your collection, too!
- Open Library: This is a great site to bookmark. Tons of online books available here, and they have a dedicated children’s library with books sorted by grade level or reading skill or age.
- Librivox: There are lots of children’s audiobooks available for free from this service. They also have recommended reading lists by grade level, which is helpful if you feel a little overwhelmed when your child is looking for help choosing a title.
- Do some swaps: Start a text thread with friends whose kids are similar age or reading level or interests as your kids. Offer up what you have to trade, and see what they have! Then do some safe porch drop-offs (don’t forget to wipe down the books and wash your hands!)
- Imagination Library: Dolly Parton sends free books to kids age 0-5 periodically throughout the year. All you have to do is register on the website. My kids loved every book we received from this program when they were younger. During this pandemic, Dolly is also reading to kids through a program called Goodnight with Dolly.
- Unite for Literacy: With over 500 free picture books for preschool and early elementary readers, a free app, and 40 languages to choose from, this is a great place to start for those with young children. We especially liked the new books about washing hands and Coronavirus. Search for topics your child is especially interested in for an even better experience, then let them explore on their own!
- Local Library Story Times: Many public libraries are continuing their baby, toddler, and preschool story times virtually via Facebook or YouTube. Be sure to see what your local library is offering. If you lack that type of service in your community, we highly recommend Bartholomew County Public Library’s Facebook page. Their children’s librarians are offering really fun and inviting story times during this pandemic, with new sessions posted almost every day.
- Dav Pilkey at Home: Calling all Dog Man lovers! Author Dav Pilkey shares videos, challenges, and most importantly, excerpts from his beloved Dog Man books. Each week he adds new content and challenges, so be sure to check back regularly!
- American Girl Online Library: Each week American Girl Doll will release books from their popular series, including the high quality books that address emotional needs, such as worry and puberty, for free!
- Aiden Tyler, Quaran-teen: Has your child commented that he/she wishes there was a book about what is happening right now? You’re in luck! Each week, the website Junior Library Guild will update the next chapter, so the book unfolds with the current state of the pandemic in America.
High School or Young Adult
- Spotify: Your teen may already be using Spotify to listen to music and make playlists. You can also stream audiobooks for free from Spotify (who knew?) What’s particularly cool is that a lot of the poetry is read by the poets themselves (search for the Poetry: In Their Own Voices collection). And some of the classic novels are ready by famous actors, which may be just what your teen needs to hear to pique their interest.
- Jason Reynolds Grab the Mic program: From the author that brought us Spider-Man Into the Spider Verse and so many other eye-opening and insightful poems and stories, he is posting videos twice a week with writing prompts and other ideas to spur your teen’s creativity and tap into what they may be feeling right now.
Are you facing any particular challenge in accessing books or reading material for your kids? Send us an email and we’ll try to brainstorm some ideas or ways to help! firstname.lastname@example.org