In order to read better, students need to practice reading, and one of the first steps to making this happen is to get reading materials into the hands of our students. While print books in school and classroom libraries are a critical piece of this process, these libraries are not always accessible, updated, or well-funded. Fortunately, the arena of digital books and reading materials continues to expand, offering additional access opportunities for our students. Sometimes, this access is connected to e-book collections in school libraries and curriculum programs. Other times, it may be a collaborative relationship with a community library that has e-books available for checkout, or through state-funded online libraries. In general, our students have access to an ever-expanding catalog of free online libraries and e-books.
When students have access to a digital reading device, such as an iPad, Chromebook, smartphone, or home computer, they have convenient access to large libraries of online reading materials. This can be an empowering opportunity and an effective way to close access gaps to quality reading materials. Digital access also offers opportunities for scaffolding and differentiation since many of these titles are offered not only in text formats but also audio and video. Additionally, digital resources are often available during summer months when print resources are less accessible at the school. This expanded access can help to encourage reading throughout the summer.
The list below is by no means comprehensive, but it does include some quality online resources—most of which are free—to get you started. There are options available for students of nearly all levels. Of course, you will want to connect with your local librarian or school media specialist and conduct your own online search to find even more.
Preschool Through Elementary School
- Clifford Interactive Storybooks: Read these stories from Scholastic in English or Spanish and play a related game.
- Epic: This site offers a robust digital library of books, videos, and audio for pre-K and elementary classrooms. It’s free for teachers and classrooms, and it provides a useful teacher dashboard. Mobile apps are also available.
- Storyline Online: This award-winning literacy program targets elementary classrooms and offers videos of picture books being read by celebrities. “Each book includes supplemental curriculum developed by a credentialed elementary educator.”
Elementary Through Middle School
- Funbrain: Access free online books for grades K–8. The site also includes games and videos.
- National Geographic Kids: This site is intended for students in pre-K through middle school and focuses on nonfiction content. In addition to the Books collection, related games and videos are also available.
Preschool Through High School
- Lit2Go: Here, you will find a free online collection of stories and poems from the Florida Center for Instructional Technology. Content is available in MP3 audio format. K–12 reading levels are provided, and downloadable PDFs are available, too.
- Open Library: This is an open online library of e-books from the Internet Archive. Browse or search by subject. Limit by reading level in the K–12 library. Create an email-verified account to read books. Audio books are also available. Some titles are accessible to all users while others are restricted to those with print disabilities and qualifying accounts.
- Poetry Foundation: This site offers free poetry resources. Find poems, poets, collections, and audio.
- Project Gutenberg: This free online library offers over 60,000 free e-books. Books are available in multiple formats, including EPUB and Kindle. Users can download the books or read them online. The focus of this site is the publication of public domain titles for which U.S. copyright has expired. Because of this, it’s most heavily concentrated on classic and older titles, which may be best suited for high school students.
- Read.gov: This site offers a collection of free online books curated by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. Search the Kids and Teens sections or browse the Educators and Parents section for other resources.