Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Neverending Search
Inside Neverending Search

Wonderful news! The launch of the Open eBooks app for your children in need

Some wonderful news!  First Lady Michelle Obama’s video below announces a significant new initiative designed to address the challenge of providing children living in low income households with equitable access to digital reading materials.

Open eBooks, is a free app, offering thousands of popular and award-winning titles, available without checkout or cost.  It targets all students–prekindergarten through high school–and works across a variety of devices, including tablets donated as part of the President’s ConnectED Initiative.

Open eBooks involves a strong coalition involving the Digital Public Library of America, The New York Public Library, and First Book, with  support from Baker & Taylor.  The project is also supported by the generous commitments of publishers with funding provided in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The books for the collection collection were selected by the DPLA Curation Corps, established to ensure a diverse, compelling, and appropriately targeted set of thousands of titles—something from which every child could read, enjoy, and learn.

The following publishers are providing access to their titles, a catalog of eBooks valued at more than $250 million:

  • Bloomsbury: Providing unlimited access to over 1,000 of its most popular titles.
  • Candlewick: Providing unlimited access to all relevant children’s and young-adult eBook titles in their catalog.
  • Cricket Media: Offering full digital access to all of its market-leading magazines for children and young adults, including Ladybug and Cricket.
  • Hachette: Offering access to a robust catalog of their popular and award-winning titles.
  • HarperCollins: Providing a vast selection of their award-winning and popular titles.
  • Lee & Low: Providing unlimited access to over 700 titles from this leading independent publisher of multicultural books.
  • Macmillan: Providing unlimited access to all of the K-12 age-appropriate titles in their catalog of approximately 2,500 books.
  • National Geographic: Providing unlimited access to all of their age-appropriate content.
  • Penguin Random House: Committing to provide an extensive offering of their popular and award-winning books.
  • Simon & Schuster: Providing access to their entire e-catalog of books for children ages 4-14, comprised of 3,000 titles.

How to get started:

The program is available to adults who work with children in need through their libraries, museums, schools, shelters and clinics, out-of-school programs, military family services, faith-based programs, and early childhood programs.Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.26.55 PM

To qualify, first sign up with First Book and then request access to Open eBooks for the children you serve. (Check out the Registration FAQs.)

Before registering you will need to know:

  • The approximate percentage of children you serve who come from low-income families, and the basis for this estimate (free and reduced lunch, census data or similar information)
  • The breakdown of students you serve by grade level (i.e., 20 3rd graders, 100 4th 5th and 6th graders, etc.)

After you register, students download the free Open eBooks to their devices from the App Store or Google Play and input an access code. Users will be immediately able to borrow up to 10 eBooks at a time. Each borrowed book will be available for 56 days before it must be renewed.

Please help spread the word, the books, and the opportunity to all children who could be reading right now!

Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. I only wish we had the ability to sign up individual students for access to Open eBooks. I work in a fairly affluent middle school but have several students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, and who desperately need access to books while school is not in session. Open eBooks could have addressed the digital divide for these students. I hope someone will find a way to make this program accessible for ALL students in need!

    • Thank you for the support Mary. We encourage students who are not able to qualify through their schools to check with their local library, an after-school program, faith-based organization, or military family organization. All qualification and registration is handled through First Book, firstbook[dot]org.

  2. Joyce Valenza says

    You’re right, Mary. This is an important question and I will investigate and get back to everyone. Thanks for pointing ot the issue.

    • Margaret Bokelman says

      Thank you, Joyce, for looking into this! I read about the program with so much excitement, only to feel very disappointed that our school does not qualify. We have a HUGE income disparity; we have students who are extremely wealthy and students who are homeless. About 25% of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch, and I sure wish I could make this program available to them.

  3. We are a public library who works with the schools to get library cards to all students – these cards give them access to free downloadable ebooks and audiobooks. Check with your public libraries to see if they offer ebooks and get cards to the students individually this way. Also, we have a First Book organization here and they distribute free books via organizations that function during the summer, too – like Boys and Girls Club, YMCA, head start programs. YOu could even try food banks??

    • Thank you Helen, these are all great suggestions! We encourage students who are not able to qualify through their schools to check with their local library, an after-school program, faith-based organization, or military family organization. All qualification and registration is handled through First Book, firstbook[dot]org.

  4. If you don’t qualify, your school library or public library could also subscribe to Tumblebooks – and the students would have individual access to that. One of the big pluses of these is it has animated books that read aloud, and along, with the child. Also has books and audiobooks for older children/teens. Price is reasonable, too. (We have Tumblebooks and love it)

Speak Your Mind