Category Archives: free resources

Free online books for kids: Web site reviews

Free online books for kids

Free online books for kids are vital to me as a children’s writer to help me study my craft. Indeed, they are as necessary as running water–well okay, maybe that’s going too far.

The best sites that I’ve found in my never-ending quest are the ones with has a large selection that includes both contemporary and older books. The books have to be of high quality, of course, recognized and used in school and public libraries, and at this point in history, most of quality books are or were issued in print, though high-quality ebooks only are a fast-growing industry. Though I will concentrate on free picture books, some sites also have easy readers, chapter books, audio books, and graphic novels. They don’t seem to have regular kids’ novels, though libraries and online stores would have ones in ebook format.

Some of these free sites allow downloading; others do streaming.



Ace Lacewing has been seen on Tumblebooks, sleuthing for free reads!

The public library has lots of free online kids’ books available at the drop of a library card. You may have to download epub or other software to read them. Tumblebooks is a large site with many picture books, easy readers, chapter books, graphic novels, audio books, and educational videos that is accessible for free from many school and library sites. The books are of very high quality, often award winners. Most were print books originally; perhaps some were always ebooks, I’m not sure, but they’ve got authors such as Robert Munsch. They get a bit of added animation and music. Subscribing on your own is very expensive (though cheaper than buying the enormous amount of material). You can “play” books automatically or manually. Rating: Excellent

GPBKIDS is the Georgia Public Broadcasting Web site. It’s chockfull of excellent, free online books for kids from classics to contemporary, plus lots of other digital children’s content from PBS. Their picture book page has books that are favorites of both kids and librarians, such as Miss Twiggley’s Tree by Dorothea Warren Fox, and Dog Breath by Dav Pilkey. These are actually readalouds, with videotaped readings of prestigious people reading to kids in a library, but unlike on YouTube, they zoom in on the books so you can read along. The production values are very high. The one minor complaint that I have is that the books are on this carousel widget (pictured) and it’s a bit hard to grab the one you want. Keeps your reflexes sharp. This excellent source of free online kids’ books is well worth the trouble, though. Rating: Excellent

Storylineonline has wonderful picture books that were/are also print books read by actors and others. Who wouldn’t want to hear Al Gore read Goodnight, Irene, by William Steig? It also has Michelle Knudsen’s Library Lion. Bookmark this site! Rating: Excellent

The Indy Library (not to be confused with indie bookstores) has excellent books well-produced on video. It’s simple to use, and doesn’t require a library card or a login. Me like! The site is a gem for those looking for free online books for kids and well worth exploring beyond that one page. Rating: Excellent

One More Story has been around for a long time. It’s got excellent picture books and professional production. You just get one free book, but hey, you’ve probably got more than one device and more than one email addy. Also, you can send one free one, so you can send that to yourself, bringing it up to two awesome picture books. One More Story has subscriptions for schools and libraries and a free one for hospitals, as well as an affordable paid “home” subscription. Rating: Good (excellent books, but not a lot of “free”)



Grownups love free online books for kids!


NOTE: I do encourage buying books whenever possible and subscribing to paid versions of sites that offer freebies. Authors, illustrators, bookstores, and these sites all need money to survive to keep posting more free online kids’ books, thus making an important contribution to literacy. The most important thing is raising a reader!

YOUTUBE YouTube is easily the place with the most free online kids’ books. It’s got pretty much every picture book, from the moment they come out. I’d recommend sticking to professional channels such as Reading Rainbow. StoryTimeOnline is good too, though I don’t know who is behind it.

If you want to find a specific book, search the title. If the title is a common phrase, like “I Love Cats” or something, you may get many results that are not books. In that case, type the title plus “readaloud,” and the search box may also suggest trying “read aloud,” so try that too. Searching the author sometimes works, but usually does not.

Most of the readalouds are amateur and some downright unintelligible. There are also possible copyright issues, though I don’t think the watcher would get in trouble. Amateur YouTube readalouds are probably of more value to a writer than to a child, because they usually don’t zoom in on the pages or have professional recording equipment. So I do recommend sticking to the professional, legit channels… however, as a writer in an era of few bookstores, I just closed, I’m grateful for YouTube. I do go to kids’ libraries to study the books, but I sometimes get kicked out for not being with a kid!  Rating: Very Good–excellent for studying books, and for readers, a huge treasure trove/junkpile you have to hunt through.


MeeGenius is an ebook publisher owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt that has a handful of free ebooks here. These are books that have always been ebooks, not enhanced versions of print books like the other site. The books are of good quality, though you are less likely to have heard of them, since they’re not out on shelves in stores and libraries. Rating: Very Good


I have just found MagicBlox, a site that give one free ebook per month if you sign up. It does have books that were in print. A lot of the books are self-published. But they do approve the books for the age group, unlike Amazon Kindle, so you can feel safe having your child go through the books. There are some books by well-known and smaller publishers there. Since they offered a $10 per year unlimited subscription, I signed up for that.

It’s easy to become a book snob with all the famous books out there, but giving books that didn’t have the benefit of wide distribution a chance doesn’t hurt–it doesn’t take that long to read a picture book, after all. This isn’t one of my top choices, it’s new territory, and I see a lot of (gasp) Comic Sans on the covers, but I’m looking forward to something new in free online stories. You can actually upload your own books to it, giving it a wider functionality. Rating: Good

Why free online kids’ books? Besides the obvious savings, Web sites are accessible on mobile devices, so children can read or be read to anywhere. These sites have been vetted to have safe content for kids. And, on a digital device, you can carry thousands of books with no extra weight. And when they’re free, you can just go wild! Stuffing yourself with books is a lot healthier than stuffing yourself with candy!

Parents or caretakers and children’s book writers are natural fans. Teachers looking for good books for their students would be another audience for these sites. Some of them offer subscriptions to schools, which teachers would be able to access.

In the beginning of the dot-com era, it was pretty costly to read children’s books online. You had to sign up for a site and usually pay a monthly fee. But there are more and more free online kids’ books sites.

There are also book apps and interactive books for kids, some free books on Kindle or paid Kindle Unlimited. Maybe that will be another post. But I think with these sites, you’ll keep busy for a while!


See my post on funny books for kids.





How important are connections?

“But it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!”dragon meets knight

I’ve heard people say you can’t get published unless you know the right people, or attend the right schools. Or they feel they were crowded out by others who got special treatment. These are excuses.

Connections do count. So does name recognition. Celebrities sign children’s book deals with huge marketing budgets, despite not having devoted themselves to the craft. In all fields of writing, men are taken more seriously. Men almost always win the Caldecott despite being a small percentage of illustrators (and I’m not saying the winners didn’t deserve their medals, just saying there are lots of standout women out there too). Hey, that’s life. It’s up to the rest of us to change things.

It does help to get a good education, but editors aren’t looking at your resume or college transcripts. An expensive degree doesn’t make you an artist. Learning the craft of writing takes dedication. And reading lots of children’s books–which are not part of most college curricula.

If you work isn’t ready, all the connections in the world won’t help. If it is, then by all means, go and get connected! Network, network, network, there’s nothing stopping you.

“But I need to be introduced!”

No, you don’t. just introduce yourself. The children’s book world is not glamorous. It almost never leads to riches or celebrity. For that reason, it’s easy to gain access. It’s not a world like Hollywood where it seems every other star is the offspring of a well-known star or you need to go to auditions or get on a casting couch. (Acting talent does count there, too, but sometimes running around scantily dressed helps more!) Once you do knock on the door of children’s books, it will be answered. Children’s book authors and illustrators are the most supportive bunch I’ve ever met. Editors, art directors, and agents are more than willing to meet newbies. Magazines look for new work all the time. Like any creative field, it’s highly competitive and the book field is getting moreso all the time. So do work that makes YOU happy, because the market can change at any moment.

Joining SCBWI, or just going to conferences, gets you in the door. Conferences can cost money, but you can save by going to ones that are shorter or going to just part of larger ones. Children’s Book Illustrators Group in NYC brings industry people to you. Twitter, Facebook and Linked in are at your fingertips. You don’t need any special invitations or introductions. Before you know it, you’ll have connections flowing out of your ears.

Living in NYC can speed up the process, but there is still ample opportunity outside it. Most interaction now takes place through email rather than meetings.

The answer to the question “how important are connections?” is: VERY, and you can make your own.

The most important connection

The most important connection you need is the one with your readers.

So, no more excuses, no more blame. Get back to work and before you know it, you will be the one that others are seeking to meet!

Submitting a PDF book dummy

Submitting a PDF book dummy

This is a companion post to Make a PDF book dummy the free, easy way.  That article talked about how to use the free page layout program Scribus to make a dummy. This will discuss how to submit or show a PDF book dummy to a publisher or agent.


Do make sure your target publisher or agent wants PDF book dummies and follow submission guidelines as to sending solicited or unsolicited work.

Do confirm that your email can accommodate the file size. For an emailable dummy, choose a low resolution when you export as PDF. 72 dpi is an appropriate size for the Web.

Do keep a high-resolution file of the dummy for printing. 300 dpi is print quality.

Do use Dropbox or a similar storage system if the file is too big for your email, and send the editor or agent the link. Or, you could put it on your Web site on a password-protected page and send the link and password. However, emaiing is best as it’s simpler for the recipient.

Do send your text ms along with the dummy, either as part of the PDF dummy at the end, or as a separate Word attachment. (This is a judgment call.)

If you have a book accepted that you will illustrate, the publisher will give you a layout to work with. They may want you to send revised PDF dummies as you go along. You can use Scribus for those, too.

With the accepted book, once the finished art is done, you will deliver each illustration as either original art or a high-res digital file, not as a dummy or book, though you will work with the layout, the publisher creates the final book.



Here are some things NOT to do when submitting a PDF book dummy.

Don’t use a fancy typeface or make a finished-looking product.

Don’t show more than 1-2 color pieces in your dummy. Most pages should be in black and white. Publishers like to have a lot of input. Don’t include a cover image unless asked, since the publisher will especially want to give feedback on the cover.

Don’t post your dummy on your site for the world to see or email it willy-nilly to friends. Take basic precautions by only sending when asked or expected. It’s OK to show some of it in your portfolio, maybe a few pages to show sequential art, and color work.

Remember that the editor can see the color pieces on-screen, but might print it out all in black and white (even at 72 dpi, it will print OK, but if you are submitting a print dummy, use the 300 dpi version). It is helpful to show color pieces on your site, either in your portfolio or on a password-protected page if you wish; you can send the editor/agent the password.

Good luck submitting your PDF book dummy!