4 Library Resources for E-Books and Videos for Kids Who Are Stuck at Home

Updated on March 17, 2020
Adele Jeunette profile image

Adele has been a youth services librarian in public libraries for 20 years.

Many libraries can give you free access to numerous e-books and videos online. This article describes resources you can tap into.
Many libraries can give you free access to numerous e-books and videos online. This article describes resources you can tap into.

Libraries Have Books, Movies, and Audio You Can Get for Free Online

So, the kids are off school—whether because of a health crisis or a blizzard or a flood—and you would like the to do some things that are a little bit educational rather than have them spend several solid weeks honing their video game skills.

Chances are, your local library can help. Over the past several years, libraries have been subscribing to services that offer books, movies, and audio online, and now is a great time to take advantage of all they have to offer without leaving your home.

For most of these services, you will need to sign in with your library card and your PIN number. If you don’t know your PIN, call the library and ask what it is. My library uses the last 4 digits of your phone number. A neighboring library uses your birth date.

Four Resource Databases for Online Books and Videos for Kids

  1. Tumblebooks
  2. Kanopy Kids
  3. Hoopla Kids Mode
  4. Overdrive Kids

You can get a variety of books and videos through Tumblebooks, a service available for free through many libraries.
You can get a variety of books and videos through Tumblebooks, a service available for free through many libraries.

1. Tumblebooks®

This resource has been a favorite of teachers for a while because it has so many fun and educational titles. Much of what you will find are videos that show the pages of the book while a professional narrator reads the words. Others are standard e-books, in which the text (and illustrations, if any) appear on the screen and users read the words themselves.

Tumblebooks has the most impressive and varied collection of resources and includes nonfiction and language learning, which are quite limited in other online collections. Below are some examples of what Tumblebooks offers.

Storybooks

These are books we commonly refer to as “picture books.” They have full-page illustrations and only 2 or 3 lines of text per page. Tumblebooks has several storybook titles in each of the following categories: award winners, alphabet books, beginning readers, friends and family, school, fairy tales, sports, humor, historical fiction, cultures and holidays, mysteries, rhyme, colors

My top picks:

  • Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
  • Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
  • All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund

Read-Alongs

These books show a picture of each page and highlight the text as the narrator reads them. Types of books includes picture books, early readers and chapter books.

My top picks:

  • Matt Christopher series of sports books
  • Clubhouse Mysteries by Sharon M. Draper and Jesse Joshua Watson

E-Books

These are straight printed books which electronically reproduce the text of the book. This collection includes easy readers and chapter books

My top picks:

  • The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo
  • Dirk Daring series by Helaine Becker
  • Ivy & Bean series by Annie Barrows

Graphic Novels

These books are formatted like comics, except they are bound into a book that is much the same size and shape as a chapter book. Kids love these books and they are great for reluctant readers because the text is broken into smaller chunks and less daunting to read.

My top picks:

  • Geronimo Stilton series
  • Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew series

Nonfiction

Since Tumblebooks is essentially for educators, it has the best collection of all these companies of nonfiction titles. Publishers have released more and more engaging titles for children. I find that I enjoy much of the nonfiction more than fiction books these days—and I usually learn something, too. Here are the topics they cover: Animals, History, Geography, Science, Biography, Insects, and Seasons.

My top picks:

  • Day-Glo Brothers by Chris Barton
  • Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! by Bob Barner
  • Do Frogs Drink Hot Chocolate?: How Animals Keep Warm by Kaner and John Martz

National Geographic® Videos and Language Learning

Here are two more resources you don’t see elsewhere. National Geographic, of course, puts out videos with great photography on everything from dinosaurs to volcanoes. And, if you’ve always wanted your children to pick up a second language, they can get a start here.

Video Introduction to Tumblebooks

You can get a variety of books and videos through Kanopy, a service available for free through many libraries.
You can get a variety of books and videos through Kanopy, a service available for free through many libraries.

2. Kanopy Kids®

Kanopy is a video streaming service that is known for offering high-quality, thoughtful films. I hadn’t known that they had a children’s section, and when I took a look at it, I must say I am impressed with their selection. Your library may have a limit as to how many you can stream in a month. Here the different formats, along with my picks.

Children's Television

Find popular kids' TV series to watch.

My top picks:

  • Sesame Street
  • Berenstain Bears
  • Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood
  • Arthur
  • Franklin

Story Time Books

These are picture books with narration. I think this resource has the most high-quality and popular books.

My top picks:

  • In the Small, Small Pond by Denise Fleming
  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
  • Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds
  • Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
  • The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by John Scieszka
  • Diary of a Spider by Doreen Cronin

History, Science, and Languages

Find videos that cover all kinds of nonfiction topics for kids.

My top picks:

  • Liberty’s Kids
  • Wild Kratts
  • Muzzy (French)
  • Little Pim
  • Dinosaur Train

Video Introduction to Kanopy Kids

The video above provides a good introduction to Kanopy. At the end, it gives the website for a particular library. Substitute your own library's website at that point.

You can get a variety of books, videos, and comics through Hoopla, a service available for free through many libraries.
You can get a variety of books, videos, and comics through Hoopla, a service available for free through many libraries.

3. Hoopla® Kids Mode

Hoopla offers audiobooks, videos, music, and read-alongs in which children can see the pages in a book and the words are highlighted as the narrator reads them. The Hoopla service is nice because they don’t limit how many people can have a certain item. For example, if 100 people wanted to access the same video on the same day, they could all see it and wouldn’t need to wait in line until other people are done checking it out.

That being said, libraries often have limits on how many things you can borrow in a certain time period. For example, my library limits me to checking 10 things out in one month. You can play most of the items in your browser, or you can get the Hoopla app just to make everything more seamless.

Audio Chapter Books

These are for listening only. If you children have something to engage their hands, or they are on a long car trip, audiobooks can provide something to occupy their minds.

My top picks:

  • Wings of Fire series by Tui T. Sutherland
  • Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket
  • I Survived series by Lauren Tarshis

Storybook Movies

These are essentially short films that show the illustrations from picture books while an actor reads the words.

My top picks:

  • Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems
  • Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
  • Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems

Theatrical Release Movies and Video

You can find dozens and dozens of movies and videos for kids.

My top picks:

  • Ella Enchanted
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Pokemon 2000
  • All Dogs Go to Heaven
  • Elmo Visits the Firehouse

Comics and Graphic Novels

This company has really been concentrating on being the premier source for graphic novels and comics, and they have done a great job of it. Many, many of the most popular graphic novels for kids can be found on this resource.

My top picks:

  • Big Nate Series
  • Sonic the Hedgehog series
  • Garfield series
  • Percy Jackson & The Olympians series
  • Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson
  • Lumberjanes series
  • El Deafo by Cece Ball
  • Plants vs Zombies series

Television Series

Yes, many of your children’s favorite TV series are available here.

My top picks:

  • Paw Patrol
  • Spongebob Squarepants
  • Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood
  • Magic School Bus
  • Paddington Bear
  • Arthur

Video Introduction to Hoopla

Note that the above introduction includes materials geared to adults as well as children. If you go in to the kids' section of the site, you will see only kid-appropriate titles

You can get a variety of books and videos through Overdrive, a service available for free through many libraries.
You can get a variety of books and videos through Overdrive, a service available for free through many libraries.

4. Overdrive Kids®

Overdrive is a resource that features e-books and e-audiobooks and offers the biggest selection of titles. Unlike the other resources I’ve listed here, Overdrive only allows one person to check out an electronic copy of a book at a time. That means that if all your library’s copies of an e-book are checked out, you will need to put your name on a waiting list to get it, just as you do with paper copies of books.

Another way that Overdrive is like a paper collection is that libraries choose which titles to pick to add to their collection. Libraries are likely to have different titles from each other, depending on which titles they have chosen.

Below I’ve listed my top picks in each category, but keep in mind these might not be in your library’s collection.

Illustrated and Graphic Novels

  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid series
  • Dork Diaries series
  • Stick Cat series
  • Dog Man series
  • Jedi Academy series

Mysteries

  • Boxcar Children series
  • Cam Jansen series
  • Nate the Great series
  • Flashback Four series
  • Lockwood & Co series

Fantasy

  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling
  • The Familiars by Jay Epstein
  • Magyk by Angie Sage
  • Chronicles of Narnia by C. S Lewis
  • Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Read-Alongs

A professional narrator reads the text, and words are highlighted.

  • Pinkalicious series
  • Avengers series
  • Frog and Toad series

Video Introduction to Overdrive

What should I do if my library doesn’t have these resources?

Check the website of a larger library nearby to see if they have them. If they do, call that library and see if they will let you get a card by phone. Most states let you get a card from any library in the state.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Adele Jeunette

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