Digital Resources and eBooks for our Youngest Patrons
By Jennifer Bergen, Program and Children’s Manager
It is a fine line parents and educators walk between limiting screen time and allowing the persistent technology of our culture to infiltrate down to our youngest minds. If your little ones can’t seem to stay away from screens, the library has some literacy-focused options that have been vetted by educators and include listening to stories, reading or learning words, and discovering appealing nonfiction content. Multiple language options are available on some of these as well.
BookFlix is available from the library’s webpage at www.mhklibrary.org under “Online Resources.” It includes videos of popular children’s books made by Weston Woods from Danny and the Dinosaur to Mo Willems’s hilarious pigeon stories. Weston Wood book videos were around when I was young, and we watched them in the classroom as a treat.
The newest videos have high production quality and excellent voice actors, such as Steve Buscemi in I’m Dirty. This story of a backhoe with a dirty clean-up job to do is paired with the children’s nonfiction book, Backhoes, from the Mighty Machines series. Text is highlighted throughout the stories so kids can read along or begin to make connections between the text and the words they hear. Along with the books, children can play literacy games and find other good links. This resource is provided by the State Library of Kansas and will identify Kansas I.P. addresses as users, so there’s no need for a log in or password.
TumbleBooks is another library resource that focuses on children’s books. This database is easy to navigate with 10 category tabs at the top. Storybooks, the first category, is where you will find eBook versions of favorite picture books. You can choose to view all titles which are shown as book covers, making it easier for young children to choose what they like. Parents can create playlists of favorite books for a personalized story time. Some books are also in Spanish and French, and a section called TumbleTunes has illustrated songs like “B-I-N-G-O” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”
TumbleBooks sticks with kids as they grow and learn, and many school districts use it as well. The Read-Alongs category has chapter books as eBooks or audiobooks, and the leveled reading measurements for Lexile and Accelerated Reader programs are included. The video category has 190 National Geographic educational videos that are only 2-6 minutes each. Library users should be prepared to type in their Manhattan library card number and password to get into TumbleBooks.
Unite for Literacy is a fabulous site for children (or adults) whose native language is not English. It is listed in the Kansas State Library resources for children’s eBooks, but you can go there directly at uniteforliteracy.com. All of their content is original, so they do not have to worry about subscriptions or copyright.
One remarkable feature is the number of languages that viewers can choose. While the text of the books remains in English (except for some that are also available in Spanish), the read-aloud narration is available in more than 40 languages (depending on the title), including many that are harder to find like Vietnamese, Danish or Tagalog. The site is simple to use, but it does not have an option for reading the entire story aloud. Parents may need to help children learn to click the arrow to turn pages, and click “English” or another language to hear the narration. For more language options, check out the International Children’s Digital Library, another free eBook site where you can search titles by country or global regions. For more eBook resources, try the library’s digital eLibrary options for Libby (the app for the OverDrive Sunflower eLibrary) and Hoopla, which has a “kids” interface. Flipster online magazines has a few children’s titles as well. You can click on the Kansas State Library link and try out their digital book eLending resources, especially their eBooks for kids section where you will find Britannica E-Stax, CloudLibrary, Enki, Freading and RB Digital Audiobooks, which all have children’s titles.