Reading Together: Best Online Books for Kids
It’s week six of lockdown, and we know how difficult the past months have been, and how hard it can be to find new and fun ways to spend time together as a family.
The last month has seen a flurry of exciting opportunities online including children’s dance and sing-a-longs, recorded music and theatre performances and of course, an ever expanding list of things to watch on Netflix, Amazon and (all-hail!) the new Disney+ series.
But it’s also a great time to relax, unwind and curl up together with a good book.
We’ll be releasing our top tips for finding easy and fun ways to read with your child during lockdown including:
- Benefits of reading together
- Where to find great, free books online
- The best read-a-long books and stories for little and not so little children
- Ideas for book-sharing in your community
- A round up of the best reading related resources and activities
What are the benefits of reading together?
There are many benefits associated with parents and children reading together, through reading to children at an early age and by encouraging ongoing reading as a family.
Reading can improve educational attainment, language and literacy skills, strengthen vocabulary, and support better relationships and parent/child bonding through empathy and understanding. Also, more recently, reading has been linked to establishing better levels of mental well-being and mindfulness.
It is important that young people are continually encouraged to read for enjoyment, including in lockdown, and sharing reading experiences as a family can help to build positive associations towards reading, which will become increasingly valuable, as children get older.
Above all, reading should be great fun! And it should give some much needed relaxing time, whether that’s before bed, in the morning, or whenever you have a spare 10-15 minutes throughout the day!
Our public library is closed and finding books to read together is getting increasingly difficult…
Don’t panic! It’s a really difficult time but there are still great ways of finding great books either online, or through your local community.
The best e-books online
- The children’s reading charity BookTrust has a great range of free online read-a-long books, many of which include versions with signing too.
You can read-a-long to picture book classics like Hairy McLary and Oh No George! or find some new adventures with Open Very Carefully and The Dragon Machine.
- Oxford Owl offers a range of free e-books, all of which are tablet friendly and World Stories has a good collection of children’s reads, which are available in different languages too.
- Bloomsbury have recently published The Book of Hopes, which is an exclusive children’s e-book to inspire and entertain children and families in lockdown. Edited by Katherine Rundell, The Book of Hopes includes short stories, essays and illustrations from over 100 children’s authors including Lauren Child, Michael Morpurgo and Jacqueline Wilson. The collection, published by Bloomsbury, is dedicated to the doctors, nurses, carers, porters, cleaners and everyone currently working in hospitals.
You can download and read The Book of Hopes here.
- If you’re having trouble explaining the Coronavirus to younger children, Nosy Crow have published this free information book which has been illustrated by Gruffalo illustrator Alex Scheffler. It’s available to download here.
See what your local library can offer
Our consortium partners Libraries Connected have suggested:
- Most public libraries offer e:books for loan - both for adults and children. Go to your local library website to find out more. Even if you are not yet a member, you can join very easily online.
- Many libraries are offering daily online rhyme times and story times for children as well as other story events. To find out more, check out the #LibrariesfromHome site from Libraries Connected, which lists all current rhyme-times and story-times and also includes the Find My Library weblink.
You can listen to any children’s book online for free with Audible
Usually, you have to pay to subscribe and listen to audio books on Audible but during the lock-down, Audible have added exclusive free access for children’s books.
For the littlest of listeners, there’s classics such as Winnie the Pooh and Beatrix Potter and sing-a-long rhymes to enjoy. Older readers can enjoy the Harry Potter collection narrated by Stephen Fry and lots more.
Get some help from your favourite celebrity!
- CBeebies’ Bedtime Stories are shown at 6.50pm each night but the online archive is full of great storytellers to choose from, whether it is Dolly Parton or Tom Hardy that takes your fancy! You can also download the CBeebies Storytime app via the Apple/Google stores.
- For more stories read by celebrities, check out https://www.storylineonline.net/library/ and enjoy storytime with Viola Davis, Kristen Bell, Remi Malek and more!
- Master storyteller Michael Rosen has a brilliant YouTube channel where you can listen to hundreds of short stories, poems, interviews and more.
Find out if your community has a book-swap
- If you’re keen to get away from screens and devices, you might find ways to share books in your local area. Lots of communities are starting up their own book-swap stations to help families find new reading material during lockdown. Try posting in local Facebook groups, or search on Instagram and Twitter to see if there are any mini libraries in your area. You can also search the Little Free Library hub map to check if there is a local book exchange near you:
- Or, if you are feeling particularly inspired, why not set up your own library to inspire a book-sharing system in your street, apartment block or community? Get inspired by reading about the Leeds Little Free libraries project here.
We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for new and great ways to entertain your family through books and reading. So keep following us on social media and check out Fantastic for Families for even more ways to get creative at home.
Stay safe and keep reading!
Boy reading, courtesy Gabriel Tovar on Unsplash
Book of Hopes, courtesy National Literacy Trust
Littlefreelibrary, courtesy littlefreelibrary.org