As parents and educators, we must look for all the ways for children to read. This includes reading online books for kids (ebooks) on the iPad, Kindle, NOOK, or any device with reading apps like the free Kindle app.
Since the ebook reading experience is different, let’s think through how to best use these online books for learning purposes, keeping in mind that we don’t want our kids to have excessive amounts of screen time and ensuring that our children benefit from the digital reading experience.
Because digital books give kids more book access and availability!
If you can’t get to a library, afford lots of new books, want lightweight books for travel, or are stuck at home during a quarantine, consider using ebooks for your children’s home library.
And as you might suspect, they’re often VERY enticing to readers.
Let’s talk about how you can help your kids make the most of reading on screens.
Parent Tips About Online Books for Kids
First, Teach Kids How To . . .
– turn the page without skipping pages
– bookmark a page
– take notes and highlight passages
– use the dictionary feature
– look up the overview
– share books
– brighten or dim the screen
– rotate and lock the screen
– increase or decrease the font size
– add audio narration
Parent Tips for Kids Under Five
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center published a report in 2012 that said enhanced eBooks distract children from comprehending the narrative details. Even if you’re reading with a parent. The Print vs. E-Books report states, “The enhanced E-Book was less effective than the print and basic E-Book in supporting the benefits of co-reading.” (Enhanced means eBooks with sounds, animations, and games.)
“One of the suggestions we make and have started seeing in some enhanced e-books,” Cynthia Chiong of the Center told me in a phone interview, “is the inclusion of a setting where parents/kids can turn off some of the interactive elements.“
She added, “I think a benefit of enhanced e-books is that kids really like them and would probably want to read it over and over again, so parents should encourage that. Also, as with any book reading, educators and parents can really help the learning experience by elaborating on and reinforcing the content.“
A 2016 report showed the need for more research on ebook reading found that IF the design and quality of the eBook were high, generally so was the learning. It echoed the previous research that found enhanced eBooks to be distracting.
The researchers also recommended that adults share in the reading experience with children because as literacy experts know, discussion enhances comprehension, language development, and print awareness.
Online Books for Kids: Parent Tips for Age 2 – 5
- Read the ebook twice. Once for meaning and once for the fun features.
- Dialogue about the story just like you would a print book. Conversations about books and words are important for children’s comprehension and literacy development.
Online Books for Kids: Parent Tips for Ages 6+
- Audio narration. Struggling readers may want to add audio narration when they’re reading a new book. This will provide a model of a fluent narrator that can help them improve fluency as well as comprehension.
- Use the highlighting and dictionary features to learn new words and annotate your interactions with the text.
- Use parental controls. Once you download the book, turn off access to other apps. Or use a tracker to check that your kids aren’t flipping to Instagram while they’re “reading.”
- Show your kids how to check out library books themselves using the Libby app that connects to your Kindle app.
Also, consider these recommendations for screentime by age.
Bonus Online Book Tip: Try a Free Chapter Sample Before You Buy
One of my favorite things about reading digital ebooks on a Kindle app (free for ANY device, you don’t need to own a Kindle) is the free preview feature. Before you buy, use the free preview to see if the book captivates your attention. I use it all the time and highly recommend it.
Make sure you’re in the Kindle format. Then click “Send a free sample.”
One important purchasing note: If you’re reading on an Apple device, you can not buy the book directly from your Kindle app due to legal issues between Amazon and Apple. Instead, use your web browser like Safari or Chrome, go to the Amazon website, and make your purchase there. It will automatically download to your app.
EBook Reading at Bedtime: Good or Bad?
Avoid blue-lit screens at night if you can.
According to a survey by Ipsos Mori and The Reading Agency, half of the bedtime stories are now online books for kids –either with children reading to themselves or co-read with an adult. It’s surprising considering the research about poor sleeping after iPad reading.
So just to be clear, the blue light from screens has been proven to adversely affect sleep.
Fortunately, many devices have a new night mode feature that allows your screen to filter the blue light. On Apple devices, click on the moon image on your settings to change the light to
If you’re going to read at night, simply turn the brightness down, hit the night mode, or use a display altering app like f.lux that will adjust the color of your display.
What Online Books Should My Kids Read?
You know me. I think any book that a child wants to read is pretty much a good choice. But here are all my children’s book recommendations with reviews. I think you’ll find many good choices to get you started.
Ages 3 – 5
Ages 5 – 8
Ages 9 – 12