It’s no secret that books play an important role in a child’s academic performance and future success. A study by researchers at the University of North Carolina have found that “the number of books in the family home, exerts a strong influence on academic performance in ways consistent with the cognitive skill hypothesis, regardless of the nation’s ideology, political history, or level of development.” So where can I get some free eBooks to jumpstart my classroom library as a teacher or my at home library as a parent?
Open eBooks is one of my favorite sources of free eBooks that are readily available for educators and students. Started as an initiative by Michelle Obama, Open eBooks provides high quality eBooks for students attending Title I schools in the United States. Teachers from Title I schools can register for free and give access codes to all their students to access high quality books such as I Am Malala.
OverDrive has one of the greatest selections of free eBooks and audiobooks provided by libraries across the globe. One drawback is that availability of books depends on the number of digital copies purchased by your library. This means new releases are often checked out for months at a time. However, you can always put yourself on a waiting list to automatically check out the book when it becomes available. You can also auto-renew the book if you need a little extra reading time. You can also sign up for more than one library’s OverDrive if you’re using a school library in addition to a local library. Find your library on OverDrive.
Project Gutenberg offers over 54,000 free eBooks. Choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online. You will often find classics for which the copyright has expired. In addition to eBooks available in over 50 different languages, there are also computer-generated and human-read audiobooks, recorded music, sheet music, and pictures available.
ICL more specifically focuses on children’s books. They provide a wide variety of children’s literature and pick the perfect one based on reading level, age, or genre.
Storyline Online is the perfect addition for read-a-louds both in your classroom and at home. There are several famous titles including Harry the Dirty Dog, A Bad Case of Stripes, and Strega Nona read by actors such as Viola Davis, Chris Pine, James Earl Jones, and more. The actors use great reading voices and the books are animated to keep children engaged.
I would call this one semi free considering the fact that over 64% of U.S. households have Amazon Prime and prices have dropped 50% for low income Americans. Amazon Prime members get access to thousands of free ebooks ready for download. Selections include Children’s books and Young Adult. Similar to Project Gutenberg, you can get Kindle versions of expired copyright titles for free. Check out Aesop’s Fable’s Kindle Edition.
What about tangible books?
There are a few options for families in need that want to have actual physical books in their house to help their children develop a love of reading from a young age. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is one of the best free children’s book distribution services, delivering one free book by mail each month from the day a child is born up until their fifth birthday. Reading is Fundamental is another great program that offers books for ownership for low-income families at Head Start programs, community centers, health clinics, migrant camps, and homeless shelters. There are also other reading challenges out there that will discount books for children in addition to allowing them to win other prizes.