Libraries Closed? Low-Cost Options to Keep Kids Reading

We have compiled some ways to access a variety of books at a low cost during library closures.

At-Home Learning | Summer Edition is an early childhood education resource (for ages 2-8) providing families, educators and community partners with at-home learning activities, guides, and expert advice.


As we near the end of summer, reading a wide variety of books with your child prepares them for returning to school, be it an in-person or virtual classroom. There are many affordable options to keep your child’s selection of books fresh while your local library system is experiencing temporary closures. Visiting Little Free Libraries around town is one way to emulate the library book borrowing system while fostering a sense of community and generosity in your child.

A man and a little boy read together.
Asking questions about what your kids read encourages their sense of curiosity, wonder and awe. | iStock

Why It’s Important to Read During the Summer

We know reading during summer break is so important, but why is that? Reading 20-30 minutes or more per day helps kids prepare to go back to school at the end of summer and keeps them learning, growing and stretching their minds.

When kids read on a daily basis, they practice decoding skills (sounding out words to read them). As they read, they also build background knowledge which supports reading comprehension in school. In class, when kids encounter new texts, they draw on their decoding skills and background knowledge to understand what they’re reading. So, the more kids read, the more vocabulary they acquire, and the better they’re able to understand new material and academic concepts when they return to school. Also, reading equips children to be better writers in class.

It’s best for children to read a diverse mix of books when possible — fictional stories about kids just like them as well as about kids from other cultures, backgrounds and ways of life with which they’re not as familiar. Including biographies and nonfiction books about science, geography and history is also a good idea. When children read widely, they learn new perspectives and are better prepared to understand the world they live in. They also learn empathy and compassion for others. Reading at home is also a great way for kids to preview concepts and establish foundational knowledge for when they cover the same concepts in school, like historical events or the life cycle of a ladybug.

Conversation Starters

Discussing what your children have read is also important and beneficial. Some questions you can ask your child so they get the most out of what they’ve read every day are:

  • What did you read about?
  • What’s something new that you learned?
  • What’s something that amazed or fascinated you?
  • After reading about that, what’s something that you wonder about?
  • Is there a question you would like to ask the author?
  • What’s something that you read that you’d like to explore further?

In doing this, you’re helping them review and remember what they’ve read as well as practice summarizing and rephrasing, which are essential academic skills. Showing interest in what they’ve read drives home how important learning new things is. You’re also encouraging their sense of curiosity, wonder and awe, so such questions are great pieces of conversation to add to your time around the dinner table or to your daily family walk around the neighborhood.

Where to Find Books

With libraries experiencing closures and limited hours, we have compiled some ways to access a variety of books at a low cost or no cost.

If you have a library card, you can check out ebooks and audiobooks using the Libby app on a mobile device. You can also read ebooks and audiobooks on each library’s Overdrive website using a web browser on your computer. Libraries in Southern California have fantastic online collections including many new releases. Additionally, the Los Angeles Public Library system is offering the Library To Go pickup service for items placed on hold at selected libraries.

If you don’t have a library card, many library systems like the Los Angeles Public Library, Orange County Public Library and the San Bernardino Public Library are offering digital library cards or eCards that you can sign up for through their websites. The Southern California Library Cooperative also has a list of city libraries in Southern California on its website.

Other free sites that offer collections of picture book read-alouds are:

Little Free Libraries are book-sharing boxes in various neighborhoods around the country (and across the globe) where you can take a book that piques your interest or drop off a book to share with readers in the community. In addition to being neighborhood micro libraries, they have become pantries during the pandemic, providing food, masks, hand sanitizer and household essentials. Now more than ever, Little Free Libraries have become a way to connect with your community and support others in need.

Below is a list of some of the many Little Free Libraries in Los Angeles County, Orange County and San Bernardino County, but you can search for Little Free Libraries in your city on the Little Free Library website.

A man and a little boy read together.
When children read widely, they learn new perspectives and are better prepared to understand the world they live in. | iStock

Little Free Libraries in Los Angeles County

Grant Elementary School
2368 Pearl Street
Santa Monica, CA 90405

111 N Hagar Street
San Fernando CA 91340

The Wesley School
4832 Tujunga Ave.
North Hollywood, CA 91601

Time Travel Mart
1714 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90026

2230 Norfolk St.
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Washington Elementary School
4225 Sanborn Ave.
Lynwood, CA 90262

2003 Ripley Avenue
Redondo Beach, CA 90278

1000 N Los Robles Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91104

2825 W. Ross Avenue
Alhambra, CA 91803

11510 Elmhill Dr.
Whittier, CA 90604

300 N. Dalton Ave.
Azusa, CA 91702

550 Santa Mariana Ave.
La Puente, CA 91746

15723 Fellowship St.
La Puente, CA 91744

1394 Avenida Loma Vista
San Dimas, CA 91773 

Little Free Libraries in Orange County

Comfort Connection Family Resource Center
1525 N. Tustin Ave.
Santa Ana, CA 92705 

Women Infants and Children
5015 W Edinger Ave. M
Santa Ana, CA 92704 

Anaheim Independencia Family Resource Center
10841 Garza Ave.
Anaheim, CA 92804 

El Sol Academy
1010 N Broadway
Santa Ana, CA 92701 

Children’s Museum of La Habra
301 Euclid St.
La Habra, CA 90631 

CREER/Friends of the Library
31495 El Camino Real
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

27695 Nopales
Mission Viejo CA 92692

17652 Wellington Avenue
Tustin, CA 92780 

484 S Center Street
Orange, CA 92866 

221 Walnut Street
Costa Mesa, CA 92627 

Little Free Libraries in San Bernardino County

6234 Princeton Street
Chino, CA 91710 

7256 Annapolis Way
Fontana, CA 92336 

3133 S Arcadian Shores Rd
Ontario, CA 91761

8330 Branchwood Place
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730 

1105 W. Highland Ave.
Redlands, CA 92373 

3169 Pershing Avenue
San Bernardino, CA 92405 

12974 Newport St.
Hesperia, CA 92344 

It’s wonderful how the simple act of reading 20-30 minutes per day can support our kids throughout their school years to build a strong academic foundation. Happy reading!

Michelle Sterling is a speech-language pathologist, photographer and author of the forthcoming picture book When Lola Comes. You can find her online at averyandaugustine.com.


Related Stories from PBS SoCal:

— Tips for Families of Reluctant Readers on Rediscovering Their Joy for Books