We have all been there: on a car or bus ride, in line at the grocery store or sitting in the waiting room and we turn to our phones to entertain our little ones when they begin feeling restless. Now, as we stay at home, many of us are also turning to devices to balance our online work with their virtual schooling. Thankfully there are free ways to turn those opportunities of screen time into quality learning time.
E-books can be a great way to boost early literacy skills for children while using devices.
Free digital library services and online e-book collections bring the books to your devices. As PBS KIDS’ "Raising A Lifelong Reader" suggests, let your little one browse through the electronic titles until they find the perfect book for them. And whether you sit together or read independently, you can have peace of mind knowing your child is using screen time for quality purposes.
Below are some places to access free digital e-books.
Sesame Street in Communities Digital Storybooks: This free, bilingual online Sesame Street collection of storybooks, videos, interactive features and articles support the developmental, physical and emotional needs of children. The collection includes electronic storybooks that tackle the significant challenges our youngest children may face. Topics include family bonding, foster care, trauma and health emergencies. As PBS KIDS’ "5 Ways Books Can Help Your Anxious Child" tells us, reading for six minutes a day can reduce stress levels and form parent-child bonds.
A handful of Sesame Street in Communities Storybook titles are listed below, with dozens more available for free at SesameStreetiInCommunities.org:
- Elmo’s Math Adventure (Topic: Developing Math)
- A Blended-Family Celebration (Topic: Family Bonding)
- Abuela’s Story Quilt (Topic: Learning Through Art)
- Book Buddies (Topic: School Readiness)
- Circle of Friends (Topic: Autism)
- Daddy Time! (Topic: Family Bonding)
- Mommy, Mami, Mama, Mom (Topic: Family Bonding)
- No Matter What (Topic: Health Emergencies)
- Play, Talk Imagine! (Topic: Parental Addiction)
- Something Small (Topic: Helping Kids Grieve)
- The Feeling Basket (Topic: Foster Care)
PBS KIDS E-Books: Read free PBS KIDS e-books with some of your child’s favorite PBS KIDS characters, including Daniel Tiger and Peg + Cat!
Have a library card? The following digital tools can be accessed for free via your Los Angeles Public Library.
Overdrive: Browse the e-book collections at Los Angeles Public Library’s e-book collections though Overdrive. You can find hundreds of beloved children’s titles and download or borrow the free book. Are you using your phone? Download the free Libby App, which will link to the Overdrive collection.
Hoopla: Access thousands of the latest titles in e-books, e-comics, television shows, audiobooks, music and movies with Hoopla. Their filter allows you to search for “Children’s Titles Only” (over 22,000 children’s titles) and by language, including titles in English, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Swedish.
Digitalia Public Library: Digitalia Public Library offers Spanish language e-books that can be read online or downloaded to devices, including children’s books in different age categories from baby to 12 years old.
Go beyond the digital-pages of an e-book and make the experience even more engaging. Here are some related activities and ideas to keep the fun going after reading:
- Create Your Own E-book - Using the free PBS KIDS Scratch Jr. app, have your child code their own story and read it together.
- Connect with Faraway Friends and Family: Start your own storytime or book club using e-books.
- Draw a Summary: Bring out the construction paper and crayons to have your child draw a hardcopy version of the story.
- Talk about It: If you can’t read together, ask your child what happened in the story.
- Put on A Play: Using the plot of the e-book, put on a play together with costumes, props, and scenery. Stick to the original book or use your imagination to make up your own ending!
Finding trusted quality content is not always easy, especially as we turn to devices more and more often. Thankfully, the tried-and-true experience of reading can transform screen time into an enriching experience for your children.