I recently came across a very long (600+!) list of free children’s books online, compiled by Gizmo’s Freeware. I’m frequently asked about resources like this, so I decided to take a closer look at a few of the offerings.
Aaron Shephard’s World of Stories caught my attention first; I’ve used his Reader’s Theater (RT) resources for years, and recommend the site frequently to teachers or parents looking for scripts. In the World of Stories, Shephard provides the theme, age level, and length for books across 11 genre. Stories are text only, no illustrations. Some stories have extras like posters and audio files. These resources are great for RT, as well as for when you need text to use for running records or other assessment. No readability information provided.
Children’s Books Forever is a quirky collection of free picture books written (mostly) by Hans Wilhelm that you can use on a Smartboard, PPT, or a computer monitor. The illustrations are charming and seem just right for beginning readers. If you decide to browse the collection, I particularly liked the Waldo book and the Ten Little Bunnies story. There’s a series about Tyrone the bully that I didn’t like much at all — the solution to a bully was a hot pepper sandwich! However, the Waldo humor books is a series of illustrations-only books. These illustrations could be used as story starters for children’s own writing.
Kindersite has a collection of stories of various sites — the BBC, Starfall, Sesame Workshop, and others. The book experience depends on which title you choose. Mox’s Shop from Starfall provides a very explicit reading (phoneme by phoneme) of the words in a very simple story. Julia and the Big Wave from RIF is a longer story accompanied by Flash illustrations. All books are for the younger set (age 2-8).
Story Time For Me includes three series of original, interactive stories. Users can choose to have a story read with individual words or phrases highlighted, or no highlighting at all. Animation can be turned on and off, which is a handy option. Designed for young kids (the site says ages 1-5), with running times under 3 minutes per book.
As with all material to be used with young readers, I recommend previewing a site and the stories carefully before using it with kids.