(Oh, let's be honest. I'll never stop buying books.)
Anyway, here are some sites that I've explored lately. I hope you'll enjoy them too!
|free online children's books--because you can't always find an older cousin to read to you|
I first blogged about this program three years ago; read my original post about how it works, the few aspects I don't like about it, and how you could use it in a language classroom. Briefly, you select a picture book, chapter book, or nonfiction book in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Chinese, or Russian. (Predictably, English predominates; click on the "language learning" button at the top of the page to access the books in one of the other languages.) You watch the story unfurl onscreen, with a narrator reading aloud while the lines of text are highlighted like a karaoke storytime. You can opt to have it advance automatically or manually. Many of the picture books have activities that accompany them--matching games, quiz questions, and so forth. If your public library or school doesn't subscribe to Tumblebooks, you can access it through the Lafayette Public Library's kid's stuff page.
We Give Books:
At this charitable giving site, everytime you read a book, the publisher (Penguin Books) will donate one to the nonprofit organization of your choice. You have to sign up (for free) and the selection is fairly limited (smaller than Tumblebooks), but it's hard to argue with the idea! The books, all in English, are geared to ages ten and under and include both DK nonfiction titles (which my kids in Reading Buddies love) and familiar picture books--definitely a plus. You (or your child) do have to actually read the book yourself from pages identical to those of the printed book.
Lire et RéCréer:
This site in French has short stories, fables, poems, and nursery rhymes, both classic and contemporary. The text is presented on the screen, often with simple animation and background music, but the reader is (usually) invited to pronounce it aloud (note that music will start when the site is opened).The tales are divided by genre and also by age. It doesn't have as many "bells and whistles" as Tumblebooks, but it's all in French and the selection (and variety of genres) is a lot better!
Like Tumblebooks, Librivox reads books to you; unlike Tumblebooks, this program focuses on books for adults, and all of the texts are recorded by volunteers from their homes, which makes the sound quality less professional. On the other hand, this means that new texts are constantly being added. (By "new," I mean "previously unrecorded." The books are limited to those in the public domain, which means nothing from the past few decades.) Librivox offers texts in just about any language you can think of, limited only by the languages that their volunteer readers around the world speak, from Catalan to Korean to Latvian to Old English to Tagalog to Urdu (click here and select a language from the drop-down menu to see what books are available in the languages of your choice). Among their choices in French, I haven't found anything appropriate for Griffin or Carl--even the fables by Jean de la Fontaine would go over their heads, at least without illustrations, and no way would I give a preschooler the original versions of Charles Perrault's fairy tales! In English, though, they have stories by Beatrix Potter, Thornton Burgess, Aesop, and Mother Goose, plus The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (and with 10,000+ texts in English, many more are bound to be appropriate for kids).
I found this one almost four years ago, before I started working as a reading enrichment program coordinator at the library; I'll be exploring it more thoroughly now to steal (er, adapt) some of their ideas for my Reading Buddies. As I stated in my original post, you must purchase a subscription ($85/year for one classroom) to access all of their materials, but they also offer a generous number of free samples. You print out the black-line books and staple them together (then the kids can color them themselves). As the site is designed for teachers of English, the vast majority of their books are in English, but they also have a selection in French and in Spanish (both translations of their original books in English). The subheading on the home page of this site claims "Everything You Need to Teach Reading," and I pretty much believe them--everything from phonics to poetry to readers' theatre to worksheets to lesson plans to assessments is here.
Like Reading A-Z, this subscription-based site markets itself to teachers with printable books and worksheets. Its offerings are much more limited when it comes to books, but the site provides more printable activities, games, and worksheets. You can also access all of their materials without subscribing ($20/year) if you're willing to look at ads and not have the prettiest versions of the pages when you print them. While Reading A-Z seems very educational, the Enchanted Learning stuff strikes me as more fun. Check out their materials, including short printable books, about Africa and Kwanzaa, in American Sign Language, about Canada, about China and the Chinese New Year, in Spanish and about Cinco de Mayo and Dia de los Muertos, in French, in Swedish, in Dutch, in German, in Hebrew and about Hanukkah, in Italian, about Japan and Japanese crafts, in Portuguese, in Russian, and about geography in general. Enchanted Learning's materials in English are divided into categories on the home page.
So now it's your turn! What do you think about sites like these? Do you prefer the interactive ones or the simpler text-based sites? Which are your favorites (and least favorites) (and why)? What others do you recommend?
Note: Do check out the comments, where readers have recommended many more worthy sites in the past