As COVID-19 continues to disrupt, educators who find themselves working with students either within or outside of school walls or both have an increased need for digital content and access to books. Many organizations and publishers who already make it their mission to support readers are doing even more to assist educators, caregivers, and families in light of the pandemic.
Sources of books, audiobooks, digital books, and online texts and news
For as long as school buildings are closed, Audible is offering children and teenagers the chance to listen to audiobooks for free. Instantly hundreds of Audible originals, fairy tales or classic books, including titles across eight different languages.
Bookshare provides students with dyslexia, blindness, cerebral palsy, and other reading barriers with access to more than 800,000 titles in easy-to-read formats, such as audio, braille or large font. Bookshare is free for qualified U.S. students of any age through an award from OSEP (Office of Special Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education).
Bookshare also offers nearly 10,000 public domain books that anyone, including non-members, can read with Bookshare Web Reader and other compatible tools. Learn how to find and read freely available Bookshare books.
Better World Books receives books from libraries, booksellers, book drives, and through community Drop Boxes, sells what they can to raise money for literacy, and donates books in good condition. Request to become a donation recipient.
Bushel & Peck Books offers an online care package with links to their titles that can be read for free online along with downloads for some coloring books and activity books. You can also get the free title A Place Called Hope, a new book that acknowledges the hard times we're experiencing but encourages hope.
CommonLit, a nonprofit education technology organization, offers some 2,000 high-quality free reading passages for grades 3-12, complemented by aligned interim assessments, growth-oriented data, and expert-led teacher development. Content types of theme, text set, book pairing, and unit can help you find relevant collections of texts to fit your students’ needs.
DKfindout! is a free safe, fun place for kids to research, learn, and explore information about animals, space, sports, music and more. In addition to interactive articles, there are quizzes, videos and animations as well as resources for teachers.
Epic! is a digital reading platform for kids 12 and under with more than 45,000 thousand high-quality and award-winning fiction and nonfiction books, audio books, and videos. Free for teachers and librarians, Epic School gives students free access to content for both in-class and remote learning. Epic Free gives students access to a free home library providing two free hours of reading a week that can be used afterschool or on weekends. Learn more here.
First Book is a nonprofit social enterprise that provides new books and educational resources to eligible schools and programs serving children in need, from birth to age 18. Educators who register with First Book gain access to free books from the First Book National Book Bank and low-cost books and resources from the First Book Marketplace.
As part of First Book’s COVID-19 response, eligibility is extended to those working to distribute resources to kids in need through an emergency program (e.g., a food bank, grab & go meal site, faith-based organization, etc.). Organizations now providing essential resources directly to a subset of the population usually served (where 70% or more of those families are low-income), are also eligible. Learn more here or sign up now.
Registered First Book members can also access a free digital library of eBooks by ordering access codes for the Open eBooks app. The free iOS and Android Open eBooks app lends titles for kids of all ages to instantly download up to 10 eBooks at a time to their mobile digital devices or Chromebook with access to the Google Play Store.
Flyleaf Publishing is offering free use of some of its collection of decodable books through the 2020-2021 school year. Visit their online materials portal.
LEF’s Reading Resource Project offers free books to recipients who can pay shipping, handling, and administrative costs. Reading Resource Project books come in sets of 100 books per set and any literacy-based effort qualifies for these books. Reading Resource Project books are available in a limited quantity on a first come, first served basis.
A Little Free Library is a place to find a book or bring a book to share and play an essential role by providing 24/7 access to free books. Find Little Free Libraries in neighborhoods all over the world, all with different offerings. Know that Little Free Library stewards are taking extra precautions during the pandemic and some are temporarily closing their Little Free Libraries, which is recommended if a community is a hotspot for coronavirus activity.
Newsela takes real and new content from trusted sources and turns it into classroom learning materials. Though Newsela has now moved to a mostly subscription-based model, there is still some accessible content for free. With a subscription, you’ll gain access to a great library of leveled reading materials and Newsela's Text Sets, which offer thematically curated articles.
Depending on where a library is, during the pandemic it may provide something close to full service to complete closure. Check in to see what your local library is offering. Many provide access to audiobooks and ebooks as well as online magazines and journals.
ReadWorks offers free resources for differentiated reading instruction, including nonfiction texts, activities, assessments, and features such as Article-a-Day. In ReadWorks' Student Library, students can explore thousands of high-quality texts based on their interests.
Scholastic offers more than 12 digital learning programs to support students of all levels and abilities in their journey to learn to read and read to learn. Scholastic Book Clubs is also making it easier to get books to students by offering a “ship to home” option for students.
Skybrary is a carefully curated interactive library of eBooks and real-world video explorations designed to engage young readers and foster a love of reading. The free trial of Skybrary for School provides 30 days of unrestricted access to hundreds of books and video field trips.
To help support teachers, educators, librarians, parents, and caregivers during the pandemic, publisher Star Bright Books is providing free digital access to 4 picture books (3 English, 1 Spanish) each week. Titles will be rotated on a weekly basis and cannot be downloaded, printed, or redistributed.
Video read alouds
In addition to digital texts, audio books, and print materials, publishers and others are providing access to many titles through online video read alouds:
- Brightly Storytime
- KidLit TV
- Storytime from Space
- Storyline Online
- Julie’s Library
- Lee & Low Storytime
- PBS KIDS Read-Alongs
- PBS Books Storytime
- Goodnight with Dolly
- In Search of Free Books from Reading Rockets
- Finding Free Books for Kids and for the Classroom from NEA’s Read Across America
- Best Digital Library and Reading Apps and Websites from Common Sense Media