Have You Heard of Open eBooks?

Open eBooks, a new literacy program, launched earlier this year. The program is an app that gives in-need youth unlimited free access to thousands of ebooks. While the program is a partnership between Digital Public Library of America, The New York Public Library, and First Book, with content support from digital books distributor Baker & Taylor, it is part of the White House ConnectED Initiative.

open ebooks

The goal of Open eBooks is to encourage a love of reading and serve as a gateway to children reading more often. Books on the Open eBooks app can be read without cost. Open eBook users can borrow up to 10 books at once.

The app gives any educator or administrator at one of the more than 66,000 Title I schools or any of the 194 Defense Department Education Activity schools in the United States access to thousands of free ebooks. Educators, librarians and program leaders working with children and youth from in-need families can sign up through First Book to receive free access to the Open eBooks app. The Open eBooks app will be available exclusively to educators, librarians and program leaders who are signed up with First Book.

The program is not without its critics. One drawback is that only educators, librarians, and other leaders working with youth and families can access the app. That means the children must read the books on school-issued tablets or iPads. Not all schools have these, and many do not allow the children to take these items home, meaning the children can only access and read the books at school. Reading is often given low priority in schools; with teachers giving priority to testing and mechanics. Many believe that the love of reading is best learned in the home.

On the positive side, Open eBooks does provide books to low-income children in schools that often can’t afford to fund a school library. For children in low-income schools that can take their school-issued tablets or iPads home, these children will now have access to books they can read at home if they so choose. Increased reading rates is good for all authors and publishers. The more people read, the more books are in demand.

If you are interested in contributing your ebooks to in-need children through the Open eBooks program, you can learn how on the Open eBooks website. However, I highly doubt the program is open to accepting overtly Christian books for children since it is a program for public schools.

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My Rant

The other weekend, my 10-year-old daughter accompanied me to the grocery store. The girl loves to read. Often, she brings a book with her on errands.

As my daughter wheeled the cart around the store after me, she also read her book (she takes after her mother in the multi-tasking department). A father stopped me and said, “You should write a book about how to get your kids to read while they help you instead of just look at a digital screen.” (Of course, this gentleman had no idea I was an author). I thanked him for the compliment.

As we left the store, my daughter said, “Mom, are you going to write that book?” My response to her was that many parenting books have already been written and that getting children to read rather than play with digital devices is part of a parent’s job.

I truly don’t think a book would help the issue.

A recent study in the UK by the National Literacy Trust showed that three in 10 British children live in households that do not contain a single book. An additional one in 10 children live in homes with 10 or fewer books. On the other hand, 85% or 17 out of 20 children owned a game console and 81% (basically eight out of 10) have a mobile phone.

I am sure the statistics for the United States are similar.

The problem is many people don’t value books. I can count on one hand the number of times my children have received a book as a birthday present at one of their birthday parties. When I attend baby showers, rarely does anyone give the expectant mother books for her baby. I love to give books at baby showers. After all, my husband and I created Baby Bible Board Books to teach the youngest hearts about Jesus.

I don’t believe that digital books are helping children read more. Thus far the research indicates that people who already value and read books are the ones using e-readers to read; they are simply switching mediums.

The love of reading must be taught. Playing video games is easier on the brain than reading. We are creatures of comfort. We will choose the easy road over the hard one, given the choice. Children are no different. Parents must step up to the plate and create an atmosphere in their homes that values reading. If this does not happen, I fear for the future of our nation.


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