Reading has many advantages for children: it develops skills, increases intelligence and stimulates the imagination. Despite the benefits, reading can still become an expensive hobby.
Fortunately, there are ways to get new, used, and even virtual books without paying a cent. Here’s how to get free children’s books.
How to get physical copies of children’s books for free
1. Find a small free library
Little Free Library is a non-profit organization that has built a large network of book exchange boxes across the country. These boxes are located in convenient neighborhood locations such as parks, front yards, and lobbies.
Children and adults can take a book out of the box or leave one to share. In many communities, however, the libraries are primarily aimed at children. Use the Small free library card to search for places near you.
2. Check your local library
Borrow in the children’s section of your public library. In many library systems, users can request books from other branches, which opens up a wider range of choices. Some libraries also have giveaways for books on occasion, so it’s worth asking a librarian about giveaways.
3. Sign up for Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Dolly Parton’s imagination library, founded by the music legend himself, sends out a free book every month to children from birth to the age of five. Adults can register online on behalf of children. However, the program is not available everywhere. Check the website for location details.
4. Explore online marketplaces and community groups
Search the “Free Stuff” pages on sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. You can often find a treasure trove of children’s books that people are giving away. Another great way to discover free children’s books in your city: join parent or neighborhood groups on social networks like Facebook and Nextdoor. You can also check the Freecycle Network, an online merchandise recycling forum, to see if something is up for grabs in your area.
5. Participate in the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program
This Barnes & Noble program usually takes place in the summer and rewards children with a giveaway for reading eight books. Here’s how it works: Download the Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Journal online or ask for one in stores. Children type in the name of each book they read and what they liked about it. They can then take the finished diary to a Barnes & Noble store and choose a free book from a list in the diary.
The program is open to children in grades 1 to 6 and can also be extended to older children.
Where to find free online books, e-books and audiobooks for children
6. Sign in to your library’s website
With a library card, you will likely have access to free audiobooks and e-books through your library’s website or through partner services like Hoopla Digital and OverDrive. With a compatible device, you can borrow works from these digital collections for a set number of days, just like you would a normal library book.
7. Try Project Gutenberg
Gutenberg project is a free online library with more than 60,000 e-books. According to the website, it mainly contains “older works for which US copyright law has expired”. You can browse different genres under the “Children’s Book Shelf” where you can find titles like “Peter Pan” and “The Tale of Peter Rabbit”.
8. Listen to Audible Stories
Audible started Audible stories to help families cope with school closings during the pandemic. The collection offers a mix of educational and entertaining stories for children in multiple languages. Listeners can stream audiobooks for free on a computer, phone, or tablet without the need to sign in.
9. Check out LibriVox
LibriVox is a site that compiles audiobook versions of publicly available works. It draws content primarily from the Gutenberg project and relies on volunteers reading aloud and recording the audio. LibriVox has 15,000 books and counts to listen to or download for free, including plenty of options for kids.