Beginning with nursery rhymes and “Goodnight Moon,” we all want our kids to fall in love with reading. It aids brain development, builds confidence and helps them succeed in school.
But let’s face it, those hardcover children’s classics, plus every installment of “The Baby-Sitters Club” add up, especially when you buy them new.
Fortunately for parents, you can save the crisp new editions for birthdays and holidays. There are lots of ways to get free books for kids and keep your home library stocked.
How to Get Free Books for Kids
Use these strategies to get free books for kids. Some are physical books and others are PDFs or ebooks, but they all offer great ways to give children access to a wide variety of reading material — without spending a cent.
1. Imagination Library
Dolly Parton loves reading so much, she wants every child to have access to books.
In 1995, the country music superstar started Imagination Library to give free books to children in her home county in Tennessee. She wanted to help preschool-aged children develop a love of reading even if their families couldn’t afford books.
In 2000, she expanded the program, partnering with local communities to send more than 60 million books to kids in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Local partners include preschool programs, libraries and service organizations along with many other groups.
To get free books for your child, check the program availability in your area, then follow the instructions to get registered.
2. Free Kids Books
Download free PDFs from this online library of kids’ books.
With picture books for toddlers, books with pictures and words for bigger kids and chapter books for young adults, this site has something for everyone. You can even get coloring books.
The site recommends printing the PDFs and stapling the pages together — or reading them on a tablet or other electronic device.
Books on the site are either submitted by authors, in the public domain or have a Creative Commons license that allows sharing. Some books also include links so you can purchase a physical copy if you’d like to support the author.
Titles include classics like “The Tale of Mrs. Tittlemouse” by Beatrix Potter and newer ones like “Wilbur the Lost Whale,” which is about a whale who reunites with his family in a conservation area.
3. Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program
Kids in first through sixth grades can earn a free book by filling out the Summer Reading Journal.
Just have your kids read eight books and write about their favorite parts of each one in the journal. Bring the journal into a local Barnes & Noble between July 1 and Aug. 31, and your child can pick out a book from a selected list.
4. Little Free Libraries
Neighborhoods all over the country are becoming populated with Little Free Libraries. These small shelves allow people to share books and always have something new to read.
Find a free library near you, leave a book you’ve finished and grab a new one to share.
5. Craigslist, Freecycle and Facebook
If you’re looking for some kids’ books, why not put up a “wanted” post on Craigslist, Freecycle or even Facebook? Plenty of people have books they’re not using and would be happy to share.
Of course, your local public library has plenty of books to borrow for free. This is a great option for families who like to constantly switch up their reading selections.
But some libraries will even have books you can keep, such as older books they’re planning on tossing out.
Ask your local librarian if they have any available — and watch for library book sales where you can pick up discarded library books for a few cents.
How to Get Free Online Books for Kids
Ebooks are becoming more popular with readers, and that includes young ones. Here are several sites where you can find free online books for kids.
7. Amazon Free Books
Amazon has a ton of free kids’ books available for Kindle downloads.
Just search for “children’s books, Kindle edition” and sort price “low to high” to see all the freebies.
Among those available to download are “Wiggly the Worm” and “Diary of a Private School Kid.”
A couple of other sites also make it easy to find free kids books in Kindle format, including eReaderIQ and Goodreads.
8. Amazon Prime Kindle Owners’ Lending Library
Amazon Prime members can borrow books for free through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which allows users to borrow one book each calendar month. The program offers a range of kids’ books to pick from, but you’ll need a Kindle (and a Prime membership) to read them.
9. Read Conmigo
Immerse your children in pre-K through fifth grade in bilingual reading by signing up for Read Conmigo, a fully digital platform.
If you live in California, Florida or Texas, the program will mail you a book every four months.
The program features online resources like bilingual activities and educational tools available to everyone, regardless of location. The program also offers free ebooks that are compatible with most Apple iOS, Amazon Kindle and Android devices.
More than 108,8000 parents have signed up for the program since it started in 2011.
10. Project Gutenberg
While mostly for older kids, Project Gutenberg has a wealth of free downloads available.
Type “children” in the search field and classic kids’ books will appear, from “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” to “Peter Pan” to “Anne of Green Gables” and many other favorites.
The site offers over 59,000 ebooks to download for free, including many books for kids.
Launched in 2004, ManyBooks aims to create an extensive library of digital books that are available for free on the internet. The site adds new books on a near-daily basis, including an entire section dedicated to kids’ books
The books are available for download in a variety of formats and can also be read on the site itself using ManyBooks’ online ereader.
12. Free Children Stories
The founders of Free Children Stories set up the site in 2008 as a way of offering quality storytelling to every child, parent or teacher with internet access. The site has a variety of books for all ages, and even offers stories in Spanish and Arabic.
The Library of Congress has put dozens of classic kids books online for free, including “Anne of Green Gables” and “White Fang.” The ebooks can be read using the Library’s online e-reader, and the ebooks themselves are scans of the original books held in the library’s collection.
14. International Children’s Digital Library
The International Children’s Digital Library was established to provide a collection of digital children’s books from around the world. It contains more than 4,600 books in 59 languages, including Spanish, French, Farsi and Mongolian.
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Deputy managing editor Caitlin Constantine and senior editor Molly Moorhead contributed to this post.