reading while the libraries are closed…ideas and resources

A warm April hello to all my fellow readers out there
from Minneapolis, where our libraries have been closed for a couple of weeks.
Woe and alas!
I’m guessing that many of you, likewise, are operating without access to a public library at this point.
For many of us, it feels like a one-two punch to face the prospect of weeks of stay-at-home time
without being able to easily replenish the ol’ book supply.

I do recognize that in the grand scheme of things, this is a Very Small Detail,
but today I thought I’d try to offer some suggestions for how to squeeze the most out of your home libraries and the resources available via the internet, especially for those of you with avid readers.
This is not rocket science, but perhaps they are still good reminders.

If you have some sort of a home library…

Re-read the favorites.

my well-worn copy of Pooh Bear

When my oldest, a true reading fiend, was growing up in West Africa and our home library was quite limited,
she read some of her favorites over and over, some of them six times I believe!
When I was teaching literature and history to high school students and read certain titles year after year,
I was astonished by how much I gained with every re-reading.
Good books, like good movies or your favorite dessert, hold up to second and third helpings very nicely.
In fact, reading a book multiple times opens up understandings, nuances, and ideas completely missed the first time through, and infuses them with a treasured familiarity.
This might be the perfect opportunity to reconnect with an old or favorite book friend.

Venture outside the standard age ranges.

Quotes by Audrey Hepburn Reading -1
Adults, teens, middle-graders can all gain by dipping back into childhood favorites,
so when you think about re-reading, include those titles as well.
A beloved picture book can be the source of great comfort during a time of stress,
and every really good picture book has layers and layers of finesse in text and artwork that make them eminently readable for older kids and adults. Haul those out again and settle in with mugs of tea and Millions of Cats.
Middle grade novels are also a great source of well-written stories with less darkness and angst found in books geared for older readers.
Surprise yourselves by reading down the age brackets.
In addition, with some wise deliberation some classics can be read aloud to listeners younger  than you might expect.
I read Kon Tiki to my son who was enamored with boats when he was early elementary age and he loved it.
A friend of mine has a daughter who was fascinated by all things ocean and discovered that she loved 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at an oddly young age!
Do be smart here and don’t force something on a child who doesn’t click with an old classic, but you might think outside the box especially for avid readers/listeners who are hankering for something new.

Ironically, sequestering some of your books can help when supplies are thin.

If you have a number of books in the house, try putting some away for a week,
then swapping things out just as though you were getting a fresh batch from the library.
That was another trick of mine overseas.
We stored most of what we had in a closet and held “library day” when they could swap out their books.
Novelty creates interest.
Withholding some of the cache makes titles fresher and more enticing than when they’re all available at all times.

Reading aloud is a great way to make a book last longer.

If you have not been in the habit of reading aloud to your independent readers, now would be a great time to begin.
Take a tip from the best audiobook readers —
slow down and put your inner-actor to work with expression and personality-filled voices.
You could also let multiple family members take turns if they’re willing. Choose a lively story and give it a whirl.

Obviously, for some there is the option of ordering new books online.

I’m hoping to write a post about why you should do that from an independent bookseller
rather than from Amazon if at all possible.
(Like the beloved Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, pictured above.)
For now, I’ll just encourage you to use the new site, which is replacing Indiebound.
If finances are tight, like they are for many of us just now, you might consider buying a compendium of stories —
fairy tales, for instance —
or a book that will last for many read-aloud sessions and span a wide age-range.
For 4-6 year olds, that might be The Teddy Robinson Storybook or the trilogy beginning with My Father’s Dragon.
For kids older than 6, try Swallows and Amazons, The Hobbit, Five Children and It, or The Search for Delicious, all of which could be read aloud to a wide age range.

For those interested in augmenting with audiobooks, e-books, and on-line storytimes:


Audiobooks and e-books:
Several organizations are offering free audiobooks or e-books for limited amounts of time.
Be sure to set a reminder on your phone or calendar
if you don’t want to proceed with a subscription and be charged for that.

Audible is offering free stories for kids, and it looks like an astonishing selection.

Pinna is offering podcasts, audiobooks, and music for 60 days free.

Scrib is offering 30 days of audio and e-books for free.

Time for Kids is offering free access by age group — grades 5-6, 3-4 , 2, K-1 — while schools are closed.


There are gobs of generous authors reading books into their Instagram feeds and what have you just now,
and they are of widely varying quality.
Here are some sites that have been producing these on-line storytimes for quite awhile now
and have superb programming.

CBeebies Bedtime stories – A BBC production with brilliant reading of picture books by actors. Find listings of them here or here.

Book Trust — Again from the UK, a site full of storybooks delightfully read, and games.

Kidlit TV — There are several options here. Read Out Loud features authors reading their own books. Storymakers  features authors and illustrators talking about making their books. Ready Set Draw contains segments where illustrators take us step by step through a drawing from their book. With help, stopping and starting the video, this could be a draw-along activity.

Storyline Online – Another fabulous program in which actors read picture books,
which they have made free during corona-times.

Story Pirates podcast – The unique twist here is that professional actors and musicians perform scripts that children have written. Fantastic.

I’ve been waiting to hear the details from LeVar Burton Reads. He is adding a children’s hour to his regularly scheduled read-alouds for adults.  Find the details at his website or Twitter account.  LeVar could read me the telephone book and I would be mesmerized, so I am sure this will be outstanding.

If you know of other terrific sources for readers just now, please let us know in the comments.

Please note:
Copyright restrictions are there for the protection of the exceptional authors and illustrators
who gave us these books in the first place.
If you find individuals or sites who are sharing content —
scans of entire books, readings of entire books —
without express permission from publishers, authors, or illustrators, look elsewhere.
One example of this is the “National Emergency Library” who has made over a million books available without proper permissions and is not a valid place to access reading material.

Happy reading to all!
I’ll be back tomorrow… or the next day …with an experiment of an experiment…
that is, I’m experimenting by posting an experimental project
that you could do at home.
We’ll see how that goes!