With many families staying home and in-person story-time activities closed due to COVID-19, you may find your picture book selection tired or lacking. In response, several authors, libraries, publishers and other providers of children’s content are stepping up their online game. Here is a list of free online story times and eBook resources to keep your kids educated and entertained.
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Local Public Library
The public library in your area is a great resource for both story times and eBooks. Children’s departments are offering online story times, have eBooks available to check out on different devices, and give you access to paid children’s book resources for free. If you don’t have a library card, you may be able to apply for one online. Not sure how to find your local public library? Stop by the USA.gov website for a list. If your library’s website doesn’t have a calendar of online events, check their Facebook page.
First Lady Story Time
Former First Lady Michelle Obama is reading some of her favorite picture books on “Mondays with Michelle Obama”. This 4-week series is streaming on PBS KIDS’ Facebook page, PBS KIDS’ YouTube channel and Penguin Random House’s Facebook page on Mondays at noon (ET) from April 20 through May 11. Each reading will be available to watch on demand. Stories include The Gruffalo, written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler, and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
Sesame Street eBooks
As part of its new “Caring for Each Other” Initiative, Sesame Workshop—the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street—is offering more than 110 free eBooks. The books feature your toddler’s favorite Sesame Street characters and can be found on all major eBook platforms, including Amazon Kindle, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble Nook, Google Play and Kobo. A few titles that are perfect for little fans are All Tucked In on Sesame Street, written by Lillian Jaine and illustrated by Mary Beth Nelson; 1, 2, 3 Count With Me, written by Naomi Kleinberg and illustrated by Christopher Moroney; and Celebrate You! Celebrate Me!, written by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Tom Brannon.
photo: Jelleke Vanooteghem via Unsplash
The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning Storyline Online features videos of actors reading picture books, accompanied by animated illustrations. The youngest book lovers can go on an adventure as Betty White reads the classic Harry the Dirty Dog, written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham; escape under the sea with Ernest Borgnine’s rendition of The Rainbow Fish, written and illustrated by Marcus Pfister; or take a trip to the beach as Mark Duplass reads When a Dragon Moves In, written by Jodi Moore and illustrated by Howard McWilliam.
The award-winning KidLit TV is the place to discover children’s books and the people who create them. Visit their Read Out Loud channel for all your child’s story-time needs directly from the authors and illustrators who made them. Take a listen as author Elaine Kiely Kearns reads her book Noah Noasuarus, illustrated by Colin Jack, and author/illustrator Vanessa Brantley-Newton presents her book Grandma’s Purse.
BookBub is an online community that highlights free and discounted eBooks in various genres and age categories. Browse listings of children’s eBook deals or sign up for the daily newsletter to find all the latest deals on books to read to your child. You may also find great deals on eBooks for yourself.
SCBWI Book Readings
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has compiled a directory of book readings offered by their members, as well as a directory of audiobooks and eBooks from members. Among the many choices for the two and under crowd are author Amy Fellner Dominy’s reading of her book Cookiesaurus Rex, illustrated by Nate Evans, and illustrator Ruth Sanderson’s reading of Mother Goose and Friends.
photo: Charles Deluvio via Unsplash
Arts on the Horizon
Arts on the Horizon is a nonprofit theater company that is bringing story time alive for newborns to 6-year-olds. The group’s YouTube channel presents videos of members singing and reading, as well as craft activities. Check out the musical story times of Roar, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Liz Starin, and the classic Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
International Children’s Digital Library
The International Children’s Digital Library is on a mission to support children in becoming members of a global community. The organization has a searchable collection of more than 4,500 books in 59 different languages for children of all ages. Among the English-language picture books for babies and toddlers, you can discover the alphabet book A Apple Pie by Kate Greenaway and many versions of classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes.
Lisa Von Drasek, curator of the University of Minnesota’s Children’s Literature Research Collections, created the social media campaign #OperationReadAloud for authors, illustrators and others involved in children’s literature to post readings and workshops for kids. Join the #OperationReadAloud Facebook page to browse all the latest read-alouds, from Dolly Parton reading Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney to Jon Hamm reading The Good Egg, written by Jory John and illustrated by Pete Oswald.
Each day a new reading goes live on the YouTube channel Gotham Reads, which was created by The Gotham Group and 1stAveMachine for these times of being at home. The read-alouds are performed by authors and celebrities. For the littlest of listeners, we recommend animator Butch Hartman’s reading of Green Eggs and Ham, written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, and illustrator Gris Grimly’s rendition of Old MacDonald Had A Farm.
—Katie L. Carroll