Reading aloud to an early learner is an important way for them to build foundational literacy skills. Here are four free read-aloud resources that get children exposure to new books and let someone else do the reading for you.

Reading aloud is an important activity for parents, childcare providers, and teachers to do with their children and early learners. Reading children’s books out loud builds important foundational literacy skills, such as introducing vocabulary, building comprehension skills, and providing a model of fluent, expressive language. 

With some schools out, indefinitely in some areas, working parents and teachers may not have the ability or the time to read aloud with their kids. For the 61% of families who have low income, they may not have any books to read out loud at home.* Making matters worse for these families, many local libraries aren’t open to support them.

Getting books into the hands of children is critical for the work we do at United Way of Central Iowa. The number of books in a child’s home is the best predictor of reading scores.*  Together, we fight for quality early care and education for central Iowa children by increasing opportunities for children to develop reading skills. Whatever your situation, we hope you take advantage of these four free resources that offer the opportunity for children to watch and listen as people – sometimes even a celebrity that they may recognize – read aloud to them.

  1. Story Time with Ryan and Craig
    Story Time with Ryan and Craig is a short-form reading show for children, parents, and educators. It’s hosted by not one, but two, men – which is fairly uncommon in early education settings. The writer/director/actor/comedian duo use silly voices, big emotions, improvised dialogue and sometimes acapella songs, which makes their read-aloud sessions a one-of-a-kind viewing experience. Ryan and Craig could offer a new dynamic to inspire an excitement about reading with the children in your life.

  2. Indianapolis Public Library
    Wherever you are, read along stories are a great way to transform waiting, alone time, quiet time, or story time into a fun reading experience. The Indianapolis Public Library offers more than 100 video read-a-longs, from old classics like Where the Wild Things Are to newer favorites like Little Jumbo.

  3. Unite for Literacy
    Unite for Literacy gives children access to an abundance of books that celebrate their languages and cultures and can help cultivate a lifelong love of reading. This reading platform offers access to more than 400 books in 30 languages to help expand your at-home library, with titles that celebrate diversity, language, culture, and inclusion. Unite for Literacy also includes books that support children who require special education or are English-language-learners.
  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 Oprah Winfrey, Chris Pine, Kristen Bell, Rita Moreno, Viola Davis, Jaime Camil, Kevin Costner, Lily Tomlin, Sarah Silverman, Betty White, Wanda Sykes, and dozens more.

*According to Children’s Literacy Foundation.

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Topics: Education

Kate Bennett

Written by Kate Bennett

Kate Bennett is United Way of Central Iowa's Community Impact Officer, Education Success.