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Help to support reading at home

April 22nd, 2020 By Jo Buchan

Reading is an activity that can offer comfort and support at any time, but particularly in times of stress. Reading for pleasure — alone, together, and hearing stories read aloud — also brings improved literacy skills and other educational outcomes, imagination, and empathy.

Numerous people and organisations have created or curated online content and resources for people to access free of charge during the stay-home period. Authors and celebrities have recorded themselves reading aloud from books, illustrators are sharing their tips, while others have made paid content freely available for a set period-of-time.

In this reading-at-home round-up, we've focused on reading content and resources from the National Library Services to Schools, New Zealand, and around the globe that have been curated, developed, or made freely available for this period of home-based learning and reading. It includes links to lists of the many and varied videos of authors and celebrities reading aloud.

Teddy bear sitting under a pink and white spotted umbrella on a chair 'reading' a book
Teddy bear reading by Jo Buchan. Some rights reserved: CC BY 4.0.

National Library and NZ resources

Our new Supporting students reading and learning at home gives you easy access to a curation of content particularly relevant while students are at home. Filtering by the topic 'reading' will give you quick access to our reading information. For example, the Reading at home page includes links to freely available digital and audio reading resources in New Zealand and elsewhere.

Other New Zealand initiatives include:

  • The Coalition for Books has links to New Zealand children’s authors’ own readings and content that can be linked to. If you would like to make your own recording, they also have a list of publishers who have temporarily given their permission for librarians and teachers to create virtual storytimes along with guidelines.
  • Blokes vs Books is a new joint initiative between Read NZ Te Pou Muramura (formerly the Book Council) and the New Zealand Society of Authors, who have launched a new online campaign. This involves a series of short, light-hearted interviews between actor Victor Rodger and well-known New Zealand men discussing how books and reading have shaped their lives. The aim is to amplify the benefits of reading and how important men are as reading role models.
  • Duffy Books in Homes — parent resources has reading challenge and activities.
  • Learning from home is the new Ministry of Education website with information, resources, and guidance for parents, whānau, teachers, and leaders.
  • Stay Home Book Club is a new online reading challenge from Read NZ Te Pou Muramura. Primary and intermediate-aged children can register for free and choose their team to play for.
  • The New Zealand Society of Authors has also created a playlist of authors reading from their work.


Free eBooks and audiobooks

Audible stories — Audible is offering free access to their audiobooks 'while schools are closed'.

Glose education — free eBooks and a social platform for sharing until the end of the school year (northern hemisphere). The collection is aimed at middle and senior school students.

Oxford Owl free eBook library is making a selection of eBooks for children aged 3–11 available free while US schools are closed.

Book lists, ideas, resources

Book ideas hub — World Book Day’s selection of book ideas and resources, including author and illustrator masterclasses and themed lists.

Brightly — a specially curated selection of Brightly’s reading and book content for families organised by ages and stages. Includes booklists, activities, and more.

Choose your own adventure worksheet — created by Pernille Rip especially for this time. Encourages students to read widely.

Family Zone — the UK National Literacy Trust’s web portal for parents, supporting families following school closures. Free reading and writing resources, audiobooks, videos, competitions, and reading challenges. Access to some content requires you to create a free account.

HomeTime — BookTrust offers a selection of ideas from authors, illustrators, and organisations to keep children reading at home.

Ideas to spark imaginations at home — reading-related activities and resources from Puffin Schools.

Mo Willems' Lunch Doodle videos — current Artist-in-Residence at the Kennedy Centre, children’s book creator Mo Willems, invites everyone into his studio where he shares working drawings, how books are made, and answers questions.

Supporting reading at home — Research Rich Pedagogies — this UK Open University site is full of fantastic information and ideas for teachers to build communities of readers. In this special reading at home curation of their content, they've focused on three core ways to foster readers in alignment with their reading for pleasure pedagogy: reading aloud, time to read as a family, and book chat.

International virtual read-alouds

Patrick Stewart on Twitter — Actor Patrick Stewart reads a Shakespeare sonnet a day (except for No 5 — he said it's too hard). #ASonnetADay.

Save with Stories on Instagram — Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams created #SaveWithStories in support of Save the Children and No Kid Hungry and while children are home from school. Celebrities share stories.

School Library Journal (SLJ) — Instagram Live — author presentations (#SLJIGLive).

Storyline Online — SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s children’s literacy website streams videos featuring actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations.

The Big List of Children’s Authors Doing Online Read-Alouds & Activities – includes (among many others!) Oliver Jeffers, Kate Messner, and Oprah Winfrey reading 'The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen'.

Final round-up

Finally, the following articles give excellent roundups of various book- and reading-related happenings:

Books and stories are medicine, plaster casts for broken lives and hearts, slings for weakened spirits. And in reading, you will laugh harder than you ever imagined laughing, and this will be magic, heaven, and salvation. I promise.
— Anne Lamott from A Velocity of Being: Letters to a Young Reader

Add your suggestions too

With so many wonderful new resources appearing each day, no doubt there are many others worth sharing, so please add any suggestions you may have to the comments.

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