Ways to Help Kids Access Books While Distance Learning

Many schools across Virginia, the United States, and the world are closed due to coronavirus concerns. Teachers and parents alike are trying to figure out how distance learning will work now that students are at home. The most important tip I've seen regarding distance learning is simply this:


Have children read to themselves, you, a sibling, or a friend or family member via FaceTime, Skype, or Google Hangouts. Have children read alone or with a buddy. Read as a family. Whatever it looks like, just read.

The problem with this scenario? Most of us didn't have enough time to get books into students' hands before schools abruptly closed.

Today on the blog, Alyssa from Alyssa Teaches is sharing ways you can help children (and parents) access free books while you're doing distance learning.

Looking for ways to access books from home? This post includes tips for helping kids access books during distance learning.

eBooks & Audiobooks

The first place to check for free eBooks is through your school library. Chances are there are eBooks in the collection. Your library may also have eBook subscriptions that are free to students, such as:
  • myOn
  • TumbleBooks
  • Epic (free remote student access is available until 6/30/20 via teacher invitation if you are already a user)
  • Starfall
Junior Library Guild is also offering their streaming eBooks for free while schools are closed.

The public library is another great resource for free eBooks and audiobooks. Many counties are allowing patrons to sign up online for a temporary library card! Also, TumbleBooks just announced it will make its online libraries free to all libraries until 8/31/20, so be sure to check your public library for access!

Digital Articles

Time for Kids just announced that it is making its digital library free for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. You can sign up here.

Newsela is also offering free access to their site for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.

In addition, library databases are perfect for students who want to read nonfiction. Your school and public library should have some available for a range of grade levels.

Virtual Read-Alouds

Looking for pre-recorded read-alouds to share? Storyline Online is a free website that features famous actors reading children's books. Vooks is another option; it's subscription-based, but does offer a free 30-day trial. And there's always old episodes of Reading Rainbow!

TONS of authors are also recording themselves reading their books via Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms. This list is growing all the time, so I recommend following your faves on Twitter, FB, or IG to stay updated. Some author-illustrators are also offering live sessions where they read and/or do drawing lessons. (Check out Ben Clanton on Facebook and Mo Willems' Lunch Doodles if you haven't already.)

A third option is to record yourself reading books aloud to your students. Where this gets tricky is copyright. Many children's book publishers have made statements this week allowing for teachers and librarians to post a read-aloud video, as long as you're following certain guidelines (i.e., explaining at the beginning that you are reading with permission from the publisher, posting only through a private platform or closed group, deleting once a certain time period has passed, and emailing your information to the publishing company). Little Brown Young Readers and Candlewick Press are two examples of publishers that have done this.

By the way, Novel Effect is an awesome free app that adds sounds effects and music to the background as you read! This is definitely one to recommend to parents who need to spice up their read-aloud skills!

Print Books

Hooking kids up with quality print books while schools and libraries are closed is obviously difficult, but not impossible. It's worth checking with local independent bookstores to see if they are offering any deals. Another option, though not 100% risk-free (germ-wise), is Little Free Libraries.

Depending on the zip code, families may also be eligible to receive print books through mail by joining Dolly Parton's Imagination Library. (However, there will likely be a long processing time.)

Your school librarian, reading teacher, and literacy coach are great people to ask about local alternatives that aren't on this list.

I hope this list gave you some ideas about how to connect kids and families with books while schools are closed. If you have suggestions, please let us know in the comments.

And be sure to click here for a guide to more free digital distance learning resources for upper elementary students!

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