We're heading out for summer vacation soon and I asked my daughter what she wants to bring in her suitcase - her 'very important items' include a swimsuit, blankie & 32 books! So, as a parent, here's where I jump up and down saying 'Yea! She loves to read!" but the practical side of me says there's no way we can pack that many books. Not to mention, she's a voracious reader (finishes a book off faster than an ice cream cone!) so she'll tear through those in the first few days of our trip and then need more.
So, I did some research on where we can find some online books & reading material for vacation and I thought I would share. I've included resources for the iPad, Kindle, Nook and laptop -- and also some great finds for audio books and online videos!
Hope you find something to keep the kids happy and engaged this summer!
Barnes & Noble
If you have a Nook, you can find some FREE kids books on the Barnes & Noble Nook site. If you type: "Nook kids read to me" in the search bar at the top of the page, and then sort by price (lowest to highest), there's a handful of free Nook books for kids available.
You can download some nice kids book apps for the iPad and iPhone from iTunes. MeeGenius Kids' Books looks to have a nice variety of free books available. Open Culture has a list of 450 Free audio books, many available through iTunes. These will be chapter books and classic books - great for read-aloud or summer reading for your teen! Titles like "Hans Brinker", "Alice in Wonderland" and "Swiss Family Robinson" will appeal to a wide age range.
One of the original places to find books online, Project Gutenberg takes books whose US copyright has expired and places them on the web in a digital copy. They are a great resource for classic literature - all those novels that we read as kids and our kids should read or hear. And also many older books that you may no longer be able to find because they are out of print.
Many of the books found here are text only, available as html or in Kindle format (easily read on your laptop). It's a great place to find a read aloud for the kids - "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" anyone??!
Here is the direct link to the Children's Bookshelf at Project Gutenberg. You'll find books for kids in a variety of categories: fiction, biography, fairy tales, instructional. There is even a cool category titled "School Stories" where all the short stories & novels take place at schools -- think "Little Men" or "A Little Princess".
The Online Books Page at the University of Penn
Although somewhat cumbersome to navigate, this site has a wealth of kids literature available! I've tagged the Animals in Juvenile Fiction page for you since there are so many books about animals (Try "The Voyages of Doctor Doolittle" by Hugh Lofting if you haven't already read it ). You can see the menu on the left side of the page will lead you back to the 'Juvenile Fiction' area of the site where you can browse the many other categories of books.
Here's another link to a classic story: My Father's Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
We Give Books
One of the best-looking online free book sites, We Give Books offers about 200 great titles of kids picture books to read. The best part - when you read the books online, you can help to support one of the charities too! Look under their 'Classics' section to find "Frosty the Snowman", "Madeline", "Miss Rumphius" and "The Little Engine that Could"! This is a wonderful site for young kids and also beginning readers as they also offer some ER (easy reader) selections.
Books Should Be Free
Maybe your kids enjoy listening to books on the car ride (especially good for kids who can't read in the car). Books Should Be Free offers a nice selection of audio and text versions of Children's Books, again many of the classics. You can download them to your iPod to listen to on the trip! They also have ebook formats for Kindle, iPad, iPhone, Nook, Sony Reader and laptops. Here's their page for Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie so you can see all the different options.
Robert Munsch's Website
The author of amazing books like "The Paper Bag Princess" and "Love You Forever" has 50 of his great children's books online - in both audio and download formats! This is a beautiful site where anyone can find more than one book that they'll enjoy!
A new site that I stumbled across, Oxford Owl has a nice variety of books for kids ages 3 - 11 that the computer reads to them. It would appear that you'll need a laptop and flash player to see the books. If you choose the ones marked with an 'e' they are free books.
I really like some of the features of the site - it offers activity ideas that go with the books and you can turn pages to see the illustrations with most books. Also, the voice of the narrators seemed very nice. With some books in the youngest (ages 3 - 5) and oldest (ages 9 - 11) age groups, there aren't any words that show up on the screen, you only hear the story. Nevertheless, a good site if you're looking for access to stories (both fiction and nonfiction) for a variety of ages.
Although this is not a free site, it may be free to you if your child's school has an account with them. Ask the librarian or your child's teacher if they used Tumblebooks during the year (your kids may even know and remember their user name and password). If they had a user name and password, it should still be good to use during the summer months too! My daughter loves the website and they have a great variety of animated talking (kids picture) books available for reading online.
I've also included some book-to-video sites - since we watch very little tv when on vacation, I don't mind having some 'go to' sites for the kids while we're on long car trips.
Reading Rainbow on YouTube
You can now see all the Reading Rainbow episodes on YouTube (thanks to Jodie from Growing Book by Book for this update)! For those of you who don't yet know about Reading Rainbow - it's a great show that takes kids on virtual field trips related to books! Here's one of my favorite episodes for the book "Humphrey, the Lost Whale". Kids love LaVar & Reading Rainbow!
Between the Lions
Another great kids reading show, the PBS Kids website offers short videos of folktales and fables for kids. Remember to follow-up with a fun discussion about what lesson may have been learned.
Happy Reading! ~ Jacquie
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