As educators, we know that the best way to improve or sustain students' reading skills and comprehension is to have students read regularly or listen to books being read. Unfortunately, when students are out of school whether due to breaks in the school year or due to unexpected natural disasters, they don't always have access to books nor opportunities to participate in read alouds. Fortunately, if students have access to the internet, there are some websites that offer free online books for kids. These resources make reading accessible for many of these upper elementary students who otherwise might not get the opportunity to read when school is not in session.
One of my favorite options to offer to my upper elementary school students is Epic! Epic offers FREE access to classroom teachers. Students can use it for free during school hours which means that during some breaks, students can access it from home during normal school hours. Parents can also sign up for a free 30 day trial.
(During the Covid-19 school closures, Epic! is allowing kids access to its website at home for FREE through June 30, 2020. Teachers need to send their students' parents an invitation via email and parents need to accept.)
The reason this is my favorite for upper elementary students is because it contains recent and popular chapter books while most other online websites include mostly picture books and classics.
Storyline Online is another website that gives students access to books. The books on this website are read aloud by celebrities. It allows you to pick whether you want to watch via YouTube, SchoolTube, or Vimeo.
The number of books are limited, but some great picture book options are available for upper elementary students including:
- The House that Jane Built: A story of Jane Addams, the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, who transformed a poor neighborhood in Chicago by opening up her house as a community center.
- Knots on a Counting Rope: A metaphor for the passage of time and for a boy's emerging confidence facing his greatest challenges.
- White Socks Only: Tells the story of a little girl in Mississippi. She removes her shoes and steps up to drink at a fountain with a sign "Whites Only" wearing her white socks with no ideas what the would spark.
- Thank You, Mr. Falker (read by Patricia Palacco - the author): A story about a girl who is excited to be going to school, but she soon realize she can not read. Letters and numbers get jumbled up, and her classmates make it worse for her by calling her names.
These books also include Activity Guides with ideas of extension activities for teachers and parents.
Robert Munsch reads his books for FREE in audiobook form on his website. This is a great way to get students to work on their listening skills while exposing them to some great books. He also gives a detailed background of how he was came up with the inspiration for each book.
A couple of books I recommend for upper elementary students are:
- Millicent and the Wind
Lastly, take a look around your community for free resources. Many public libraries offer the option of checking out free ebooks, and many schools have programs available for their students such as MyOn, SoraApp, or Vooks.
If you want to read about more options for getting free books in the hands of your upper elementary students, you can read about it by clicking HERE.
If you're also looking for a free extension activity kids can complete after reading or listening to an online book, you can download the following resource by clicking HERE or on the image below.