How to get ebooks in the hands of students

The other day as I imagined my thirteen-year-old self stuck at home for the remainder of the school year, I panicked!  By now I would have read, and re-read my entire library. Where would I get more books?

Never fear: books are everywhere!

Fiction has always been a means of escape for me, a way to forget about harsh realities.

And it seems it is not just my imagined past self that is having this crisis.  A colleague mentioned that his daughters and their friends have started a book exchange to refresh their own stacks of reading material. Numerous teachers have also reached out to ask how they can get new titles into the hands of their students.

Now, this is an emotional time, folks, and I don’t want to overwhelm you. But books are definitely an emotional topic for me, and that emotion is LOVE! You don’t need to access ALL OF THE THINGS, just find the ones that work for you and your learners. Find the ones that help you all get hold of reading material that you love.

First, check your local library.

Recently, librarians have been working overtime to make our Covid-19 lives a little more bearable. Libraries are going all-out right now to get books in your hands. Ask and ye shall receive.

Meet Libby

how to get ebooks libby appThe Libby App allows public library patrons (kids and adults) to borrow ebooks and audiobooks for free with a library card. They have a huge selection that’s categorized by genre, as well as special collections. Now is as good a time as any to get in the habit of using your local public library, albeit virtually!

(I am currently reading Free Lunch by Rex Ogle using the Libby App.)

Go into Overdrive

how to get ebooksThe Green Mountain Library Consortium, also affiliated with Vermont’s public libraries, makes titles available through Overdrive. And there are So. Many. Great titles here! Students can access titles on Overdrive via their local public library, or via their school.

Due to current public demand, the Green Mountain Library Consortium has made available additional copies of popular titles such as — be still my heart — the ENTIRE HARRY POTTER SERIES. Ebook and audio versions both. They too, assemble special collections for your heart’s content, including right now, a collection of curated STEAM project books for students.

These folks are serious about getting you good stuff, and we heart them real hard. Thank you Green Mountain Library Consortium!

Take off with Sora

how to get ebooks sora appMany Vermont School libraries have accounts that allow students to access books through the Sora App. The app is designed specifically for student access to ebooks, as opposed to access for the general public. Now, once you’ve downloaded the app to your device, you choose your school from the list. And then you log in with your school email account.

Second: authors are being amazing right now

Almost as soon as schools started closing, authors started stepping up. In a big, big way. They have given permission for teachers to read their books online, they’re going live on Instagram to perform their books and answer reader questions. They’re making extra material from the books available, they’re recording themselves reading on YouTube — you cannot swing a Babysitters Club paperback without hitting a passel of authors giving it their all to make books available. Thank you, authors!

Here are a few places to find them en masse:

Authors (literally) Everwhere

Authors Everywhere! is a YouTube channel that provides videos with a huge number of children’s book authors. They serve up book talks, readalouds, writer’s workshops, and more. The Children’s Book Council is assembling an ongoing YouTube playlist of authors reading their works aloud. Additionally, We Are Teachers is curating a massive list of authors reading their works aloud online. They’ve striated the list by age group because of course they did. Teachers are amazing.

Get involved: ask an author

Kids Ask Authors is a great podcast featuring writer Grace Lin and a guest author.  Kids can also submit questions, poems, book reviews, or jokes for future episodes.

And while we’re on the topic, if you have a favorite author you’d like to hear more from, this is a great opportunity to reach out to them and ask. (Transferable skills in action!)

Join a book club

National Book Club for Kids connects 4-6th graders with fabulous books and authors. May will feature Kelly Yang’s Front Desk and Refugee, just to name two.

2.5 Let’s give it up for authors, ’cause they are giving it up for us

I’m going to call this “reader advisory”. In no particular order, here’s nine authors giving us all their love:

  1. Vermont author Jo Knowles reads the introduction to Where the Heart Is and offers a suggestion for writers working on their own stories.
  2. Jason Reynolds reads a portion of Ghost.  (I admit it, I am a HUGE Jason Reynolds fan!  And I love the way he reads his own work!)
  3. Joyce Sidman’s books of poetry have been on the Vermont Red Clover Book Award list many times. Here she offers some poem starters for young poets.
  4. Prolific and award-winning Catherynne M. Valente reads from her hugely popular Orphan Tales each night on instagram, and just released a new free short story in ebook and audio formats.
  5. Meanwhile on her instagram, Sarah Rees Brennan is posting extra material from her Sabrina, The Teenage Witch tie-in novels.
  6. Daniel Pinkwater is giving away audio versions of his books for free. #SnarkoutBoysRide
  7. Maureen Johnson is sharing free lesson plans (Common Core included) to accompany her trio of Vermont-based YA mysteries that culminated with The Hand on the Wall.
  8. LeVar Burton is *not* an author, but he’s rebooted Reading Rainbow as a podcast and it’s even better than you remember it.
  9. Author Kate Messner has organized a TON of links to authors reading excerpts of their books and sharing resources.I’ve been dying to read Chirp, here is a video of Messner reading chapter 1.

I could go on, but I’ll stop before your eyes glaze over!

Third: publishers are showing up, too

It isn’t easy to offer your goods for free, but some publishers are doing just that.  Here are a couple that are offering their books at no cost.


Epic! provides ebooks to students aged 12 years and under.  Currently, they are offering free access to families for 30 days and free access to students until June 30, 2020.

Junior Library Guild!

Junior Library Guild is offering free access to their JLG Digital Online Reading Platform. It includes an array of options for elementary, middle, and high school readers, it features a variety of fiction and nonfiction titles. New books are added each month.


Simon & Schuster are providing free access to a range of YA titles through Riveted.  (I’m hoping to read Enchanted Air by Margarita Engle.)


Abdo Digital is offering a variety of books for students of all ages, as well as databases, all for free.

Finally, don’t miss out on online book events

For a lot of readers, myself included, a huge part of the excitement of reading is sharing that love. And while we’re currently constrained as to getting together in person, there’s a ton of folks heading online.

Yall West is this weekend! The popular Santa Monica CA-based book festival has headed online so yall stay home and flatten the curve. So many YA authors (I’m tuning in for fantasy powerhouses Sonan Chainani, Hafsah Faizal and Bethany C. Morrow. Plus Nic Stone. And Angie Thomas. And–) Festivities kick off Friday, and feature events for both students and teachers. A happy mix. Saturday morning features a Nic Stone and Angie Thomas smackdown. (Angie Thomas!)

(ETA: The lineup for Yallwest 2021 has been announced and it’s equally amazing.)

And while doing research for this post I found an event I will definitely be attending: The Everywhere Book Fest! This virtual celebration will feature picture book, middle grades, and young adult authors. Kids and adults are invited to attend on May 1-2, 2020.  With this amazing list of authors, there is something for everyone.

Until then, you’ll find me curled up with a book (currently rereading Stamped), listening to an audiobook (Dig.), or daydreaming about the reopening of my local public library.

Okay, this was a lot. Some of us potentially just got carried away here.

But: what’s the word on your street? What other resources are you using to get ebooks out there?

Jeanie Phillips

Jeanie Phillips is a former (and always!) school librarian and a Professional Development Coordinator for TIIE. A 2014 Rowland Fellow, she is passionate about student engagement, equity, collaboration, and questions. Jeanie likes to hike the woods of Vermont with her dog Charlie and is always in search of a well-brewed cup of tea and a good book.

3 thoughts on “How to get ebooks in the hands of students

    • November 9, 2020 at 1:10 pm

      You’re very welcome! Please let us know how this works out if you try it with your own students!


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