Reading resources for parents who can't bear the thought of reading that same book yet again
There are a wealth of online reading resources that children and parents can access to keep kids reading while schools are closed. Even better? Many are free.
For those with classmates and friends living nearby, we've recently discovered the pleasure of book swaps, ideal for kids of all ages. For Reception children, the right book can make all the difference to a child wanting to read or refusing to, so a selection of books in their band colour - or one above, for a challenge - is just what they need to stay excited about books.
An added bonus? They get to make a package of goodies to drop at their friend's house, and might even get to wave at their pals from a safe distance.
For older kids who devour a book nightly (the dream), book swaps are also integral as they can launch them into new series of hundreds-of-pages-plus chapter books that would cost a fortune to order in their entirety. Plus, they can follow up with a book-club themed Zoom chat which will incentivise everyone involved.
There are also a range of online resources available now - many free! - which will put a world of books and reading resources at your fingertips. Storytime never looked so exciting (a good thing, considering we've been hosting about four storytime sessions a day in lessons we like to call "homeschooling from bed").
Waterstone's Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell. Photo: Debra Hurford Brown
Online storytelling sessionsOne way to inspire a love of books in a child? To hear passionate readers bring their books to life. From celebrated authors like David Walliams and Waterstone's Children's Laureate Cressida Cowell to beloved celeb readers like Michelle Obama, Tom Hardy, Dolly Parton and Josh Gad, aka Olaf in Frozen, you can find a healthy selection of virtual storytime sessions and pre-recorded videos of author readings to watch online now.
All we know is that since we've started listening, demands for David Walliams books and every book in the How To Train Your Dragon series (there are 19, which is why we've started book swapping!), have been requested.
These online storytime sessions may come with another, rather charming, side effect: your children may ask you to film them reading their favourite books out loud, and ask you to send the videos to friends, family and teachers.
Apps and games to play now
While we're all excited about our child reading, if we're totally honest with ourselves, phonics books aren't super fun (we do love you, Biff and Chip!). So we'll happily take any help and motivation we can get along the way, digital or otherwise.
Reading Eggs is a popular app for early and more advanced readers (it teaches kids from 2-13), that immediately gets two-year-olds recognising letters and phonetic sounds, before transitioning to sight words and vocab and then e-books and comprehension for the older kids.
Using games, songs and rewards like golden eggs, there's plenty of fun motivation for the reluctant early reader, and if you sign up now, you can trial it free for 30 days.
CBeebies show, Alphablocks, has a range of online songs, games and puzzles to entice and encourage kids to learn those first letters and sounds.
Highlights is a US-based kids' magazine that has some delightful online games, crafts, stories, and videos - as well as a range of educational apps. The Hidden Pictures puzzles are addictive and can help kids master basic words as they match them with each picture.
Mrs. Wordsmith's clever vocab builders and dictionaries have helped our kids expand their vocabularies without knowing it (amazing!), and the brand's Blah Blah Blah Phonics Card Game looks to be just the ticket for kids who want a playful way to learn how to read. Developed with teachers and phonics experts, you'll find over 200 cards that make phonics a fun, family-orientated affair.
Photo: The Night Zookeeper
Online literacy and streaming platforms
The Night Zookeeper
The Night Zookeeper started life as an innovative kids' TV programme co-created and co-written by children as young as 6. It's now become a home online literacy platform encouraging kids to read and write through a combination of fun vocab-building games, puzzles, and inspiring prompts, like creating their own magical characters and stories.
The platform combines a digital curriculum with personalised feedback from tutors, and is ideal for building up reading and creative writing skills simultaneously for kids 6-12. It's currently half price, from £3.92 a month - and you can trial it for 7 days for free. There's an accompanying book series too, as well as plenty of free online activities.
Oxfod Owl is a handy resource for early readers, with a free e-Book library with all of the Biff and Chips, Julia Donaldson's Songbirds, Project X Alien Adventures, and more. Super helpfully, everything is broken down by book band level, so it's easy to search for a range of titles at your child's reading level.
Vooks puts a library of picture books at your fingertips, with an impressive selection of read-along storybooks. Another US-based app, it's brilliant for introducing little ones to a range of titles they might not typically come across. Better yet, there are accompanying story plans and lesson ideas for anyone who wants to use one of the books as a the basis for some home learning lessons. The first month is free.
With thousands of audiobooks on Audible, there's plenty of opportunity for variety when it comes to bedtime stories. You can listen free for 30 days with the current trial, which gives you access to the Harry Potter series (read by Stephen Fry) as well as Beatrix Potter (narrated by Andrew Scott), Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Rick Riordan, and every book under the sun for little ones.
Photo: American Girl Doll
American Girl Doll eBook Library
American Girl Dolls are the subject of national fascination in the States, with amazing wardrobes and accessories that girls obsessively snap up. The BeForever historical dolls have interesting backstories that teach children about various periods in history - and linking books to specific dolls is exactly the way to tempt young children into literature.
Happily, American Girl has started making books available to download here, with new releases each week. Not only can kids learn about Kit in Depression-ridden 1930s Cincinnati and Nanea in 1940s-era Hawaii, but there are accompanying books on themes like worries, money and feelings. We completely understand the obsession now.
Culture Whisper is your curated guide to the best of