Thanks to libraries, kids can stay engaged

Tracey Books

Are you stuck in your home, hoping your children’s brains won’t turn to mush before the shelter-in-place orders are lifted? Do you find yourself wondering how to keep them entertained without relying on too much screen time? When they ask to watch Frozen again for the 10th time, do you wish you could conjure up a book related activity for them?

Do not fear! The libraries of our nation are coming to the rescue. Though individual branches are closed, rich online libraries are at your fingertips. Ebooks, audiobooks, and articles are just a search away. 

Just for fun, I opened my local Humboldt County Library website ( and discovered a wealth of resources for people of ALL ages. (If you don’t have a library card, you can obtain an “e card” in just a matter of a few clicks.)  

The website directed me to Overdrive, a service that offers the library’s largest collection of eBooks, audio books, digital magazines, articles and various data bases for adults and children, Simply download the free Libby App, enter your local library branch and card number and begin your search.

As for those kids of yours?  Overdrive also offers special sections for both kids and teens. 

I wouldn’t be surprised if your local library offers similar resources. I encourage you to give them a call.

I was especially curious about what other online activities might be available for children, especially those too young to read. I reached out to a dear friend of mine, Sharon Zaumbaris, who is both an author and a beloved school librarian in Virginia. After we caught up on how our families were managing, I asked her about possible resources for parents. As luck would have it she was just finishing up an information sheet for her school staff and graciously offered to share it with all of us. 

Here are some additional resources for you:

Listen to books read aloud

1.  Storyline Online — The SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s award-winning children’s literacy website, Storyline Online, streams videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. Readers include Viola Davis, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Costner, Annette Bening, James Earl Jones, Betty White and dozens more.

2.  Save with Stories/Save the Children — #SAVEWITHSTORIES.  Join a lot of famous faces as they read their favorite stories aloud.

3.  Circle Round– WBUR’s Circle Round is a podcast that adapts carefully selected folktales from around the world into sound- and music-rich radio plays for kids ages 4 to 10 years. Each 10 to 20 minute episode explores important issues like kindness, persistence and generosity.

Sharon also included a list of wonderful storytellers from all across the nation. This kind of ‘story hour’ seems especially fitting for toddlers and preschoolers. (While listening to stories is entertaining, it also promotes a child’s emotional, social, and language development.)

1.      Bill Harley — If you’re looking for silly stories, great songs and lots of laughs, join Bill Harley every Tuesday and Thursday at 4pm PST. He will be performing a short concert in his office, and you’re invited.

2.      Wow-in-the-world —NPR hosts Mindy Thomas and Guy Raz guide curious kids and their grown-ups on a journey into the wonders of the world around them. We’ll go inside our brains, out into space and deep into the coolest new stories in science and technology.

3.      Story Nory—Storynory has been giving free audio stories to the world since November 2005. They are a podcast and a website with audio streaming. … Storynory has grown into the largest and best-loved archive of free children’s audiobooks on the internet.

4.      Stories Podcast—Stories Podcast performs a new story every week, drawing from a variety of sources and a variety of styles. There are retellings of classics like Snow White, some folktales, and myths from around the world, as well as original stories. Episodes range from 10 to 20 minutes, with most on the longer side. Everything here is G-rated and safe for all ages.

5.      Planet Storytime Podcast–Offering a mix of classic stories, like those of Beatrix Potter, and less well-known content Planet Storytime aims for that mix of entertainment and education that Fred Rogers perfected.

Libraries … where would we be without them?