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Imagine Your Kids Reading And Loving Every Minute (Bonus: 20 Free Books To Enjoy!)

Credit: Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Reading shouldn’t be hard work. Yet for many kids, teens, and even adults, it is. 

Some reluctant readers have learning issues, but there are kids who have simply decided that reading isn’t fun. If you’ve given up on trying to get your kids to read, we’ve got an instant hack that may work wonders: immersion reading. 

New to immersion reading? It’s a fancy term for reading a book while having it narrated to you at the same time. This can benefit kids tremendously, because:

  • it removes the effort of sounding out words (and helps kids to quickly learn and adopt the correct pronunciation for longer new words), and may improve comprehension and vocabulary acquisition
  • it’s easier for kids to focus and immerse themselves in a story, and reading feels like less of a chore if they can also enjoy the pleasure of being read to;  
  • it’s a way to help kids ease into more challenging texts, such as the classics, or any book that they deem “too difficult.”

How To Pair Books With Audiobooks

First, look in your own book collection. Begin with print or e-books that your children have been unwilling to pick up, and purchase or borrow the accompanying audiobook. 

Set aside 30 minutes to an hour each day for reading, perhaps in a designated reading corner, and show your child how to read along as the narration is playing. Check if the speed of narration is comfortable for your child, and adjust accordingly. Encourage your child to persevere with the same book over two or three sessions, but if the book is unable to engage your child, move on to something else. (You can sell or give physical books to others, so they won’t go to waste. If you are an Audible subscriber, you can also exchange or return your purchased audiobooks.) 

Having trouble finding new reads for your kids? Steer them towards series books — if they enjoy the first book, they will be invested in the story and hungry for more.

For those who own Kindles, immersion reading is a feature on certain Kindle devices. How it works is that you will need to purchase a Kindle e-Book, as well as the accompanying Audible audiobook, and you can activate the feature to play the audio and highlight text as you read (details here). 

However, if you’re on a tight budget, you can stream selected children’s audiobooks on Audible for free — from your desktop, laptop, phone, or tablet — while US schools remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Popular stories such as Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone are currently available for free streaming, but do note that the selections may be periodically refreshed. 

The other free option is to tap into your library’s resources. As part of Covid-19 measures, Singapore libraries are closed (do check the National Library website for reopening updates). In the meantime, you can borrow e-books and audiobooks via the Libby and Overdrive apps, but be prepared to wait for popular titles. For now, neither app has an immersion reading feature, so you will need to have either both apps open on one device — one app for reading e-books and one for narrating audiobooks — or use two devices. 

Credit: Photo by Findaway Voices on Unsplash

10 STORIES FOR KIDS BELOW 12

1. Kid Normal

Author: Greg James, Chris Smith

Synopsis: Murph Cooper is an ordinary boy. Unfortunately, his mum has enrolled him in a school for kids with superpowers by mistake! Unlike his fellow students, who can control the weather, fly, or conjure tiny horses from thin air, Murph has no special abilities whatsoever. To make matters worse, there’s a villain lurking in the background, and his mind is abuzz with evil plans. Can Murph step in to save the day? 

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here

Where to find it: Print and e-book editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

2. The Terrible Two

Authors: Mac Barnett, Jory John

Synopsis: Miles Murphy was perfectly happy with life: He lived in a great town near the ocean, he had two best friends, and most importantly, he had a reputation for being the town’s best prankster. But now, he has to move to Yawnee Valley, a sleepy town that’s famous for its cows. What’s more, Yawnee Valley already has a star prankster. Can Miles adapt to life in Yawnee Valley, make a new friend, and pull off the biggest prank ever?

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here.

Where to find it: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

3. The Genius Files: Mission Unstoppable

Author: Dan Gutman

Synopsis: Coke and Pepsi McDonald didn’t want to jump off a cliff. They didn’t want to get hit by poisoned darts from blowguns either. And they certainly didn’t want to get locked in their burning school, thrown into a pit at the top of a sand dune, or drowned in a vat of liquefied Spam. Find out why their cross-country vacation with their parents is turning into a complete nightmare!

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here.

Where to find it: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

4. Arlo Finch In The Valley of Fire

Author: John August

Synopsis: Arlo Finch thought becoming a Ranger meant learning wilderness skills, like camping and tying knots. But upon arriving in Pine Mountain, Colorado, Arlo soon learns that there’s more. His new friends Indra and Wu teach him how to harness the wild magic seeping in from the mysterious Long Woods—a parallel realm of wonder and danger. Soon, he realises he has a unique destiny that will test the foundations of his Ranger’s Vow: loyalty, bravery, kindness, and the search for truth.

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here.

Where to find it: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

5. Rebecca Of Sunnybrook Farm

Author: Kate Douglas Wiggin

Synopsis: Ten-year-old Rebecca Rowena Randall has been sent away from her home at Sunnybrook Farm to live with her two aunts in the quiet town of Riverboro—where it is hoped she will be brought up as a proper young lady. Precocious, curious, and full of creative energy, Rebecca isn’t quite ready to be tamed. But her irrepressible spirit and bright intelligence win the hearts of all in Riverboro, including her aunts. 

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here.

Where to find it: E-book and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

6. Anne Of Green Gables

Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery

Synopsis: When aging brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert decide to adopt an orphan boy to help them on their farm, neither is prepared for the feisty redheaded girl who shows up instead. Through a series of hilarious misadventures, Anne’s lovable spirit endears her to the entire town, bringing new friendships, first crushes, and, for her foster parents, a love and openness unimaginable before her arrival.

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here.

Where to find it: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

7. Mousenet: When Mice Do More Than Point And Click

Author: Prudence Breitrose

Synopsis: When 10-year-old Megan helps her uncle invent the Thumbtop, the world’s smallest computer, mice everywhere are overjoyed, and they want one for every mouse hole. The Big Cheese, leader of Mouse Nation, gives his orders to the mice: to follow Megan wherever she goes. Will the mice be able to get Megan on their side to help them? 

Where to find it: E-book available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

8. Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Author: Lewis Carroll

Synopsis: Discover why this is one of the most beloved books in the world! This classic tale chronicles the adventures of Alice, who finds herself tumbling down a rabbit hole on an ordinary summer’s afternoon. In a strange world, Alice meets a grinning cat and a rabbit with a pocket watch, joins a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and plays croquet with the Queen. Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more curious by the minute. 

Where to find it: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

9. The Swiss Family Robinson

Author: Johann David Wyss

Synopsis: “For many days we had been tempest-tossed… the raging storm increased in fury until on the seventh day all hope was lost.” So begins a delightful adventure story, where the Robinson family — a Swiss pastor, his wife, and their four sons — will emerge alive from the stormy seas, bringing to land two dogs and a shipload of livestock. Be uplifted by a family’s ingenuity and courage as they learn to survive on an exotic tropical island. 

Where to find it: Print and e-book editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

10. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz

Author: L. Frank Baum

Synopsis: In this well-loved classic tale, Dorothy finds herself transplanted to the magical land of Oz when her house is swallowed up by a tornado. To get home to Kansas, she must follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City, to ask the Wizard for help. Along the way, she meets several interesting characters, including the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion, who join her on her travels and become her devoted friends.

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here.

Where to find it: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

10 STORIES FOR ADVANCED READERS, TWEENS & TEENS

1. Wizard For Hire

Author: Obert Skye

Synopsis: Fourteen-year-old Ozzy is desperate — his scientist parents have been kidnapped after discovering a formula that enables mind control! Their work was so top secret that Ozzy is afraid to go to the police, but without help, he fears he’ll never find his parents. Then he stumbles across a classified ad in the local newspaper that says “Wizard for Hire. Call 555-SPEL.” Ozzy has read about wizards in books, but wizards couldn’t possibly exist in real life, could they?

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here.

Where to find it: E-book available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

2. Stepping On The Cracks

Author: Mary Downing Hahn

Synopsis: Margaret and her best friend Elizabeth both have brothers fighting the war against Hitler and, like everyone else they know, they are filled with feelings of patriotism. But the girls are also involved in their own personal war at home — Gordy Smith, the worst bully in the sixth grade, has been relentlessly teasing and tormenting them. Then, the girls discover a shocking secret about Gordy that turns their lives upside-down and draws them into a startling confrontation with family, friends, and their own strongly held ideas.

Where to find it: E-book available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

3. A Summer To Die

Author: Lois Lowry

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Meg and her sister Molly couldn’t be more different — Molly is beautiful and popular, while Meg is brainy and introverted. Accepting these differences has always been difficult for Meg, but when Molly falls ill, Meg is forced to learn some difficult lessons about self-acceptance, life, and death.

Where to find it: E-book available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

4. The Enchanted Castle

Author: Edith Nesbit

Synopsis: Jimmy, Gerald, and Cathy hope to find adventure when they set off to explore the woods, but they get far more than they had bargained for when they discover the Enchanted Castle. At first, they seem to be in a fairytale come true, until a friend turns invisible. They soon realise that magic has a will of its own, and it is all they can do to keep up. Faced with sleeping princesses, magic rings, and moonlit gardens filled with spells, the children must use all their wits to defeat the magic and solve the mystery surrounding the Enchanted Castle. 

Where to find it: E-book and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

5. The Empty Mirror: A Novel

Author: James Lincoln

Synopsis: Nick Hodges has always been a troublesome boy, but growing up as an orphan in his Uncle Jack’s care in a small town hasn’t been easy either. Everyone is wary of Nick, and one day, he becomes the scapegoat for a sinister crime, one that he wouldn’t even dream of committing. How can Nick prove his innocence and unravel the dark secrets of his town?

Where to find it: E-book and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

6. The Bone Witch

Author: Rin Chupeco

Synopsis: When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns that she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training. Tea adapts to her new home quickly, but dark forces are approaching. In the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles and make a powerful choice.

Additional Info: This is the first in a series; see the full list of titles here.

Where to find it: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

7. Nothing To Lose

Author: Alex Flinn

Synopsis: When Michael saw a chance to leave Miami with a traveling carnival a year ago, he took it. At the time, his home life was spiraling out of control, and the carnival, with its “no questions asked” policy, seemed like a welcome escape. But now, Michael’s job has brought him back to his hometown, where his mother is on trial for murder. He wonders how much longer he can hide from his past… and his future.

Where to find it: E-book available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

8. The Last Boy And Girl In The World

Author: Siobhan Vivian

Synopsis: What if your town was sliding underwater, and everyone was ordered to pack up and leave? How would you and your friends spend your last days together? While the adults plan for the future, box up their possessions, and find new places to live, Keeley Hewitt and her friends decide to go out with a bang. There are parties in abandoned houses, and canoe races down Main Street. The goal is to make the most of every minute they still have together. And for Keeley, that means taking one last shot at the boy she’s loved forever.

Where to find it: Print and e-book editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

9. Impossible Music

Author: Sean Williams

Synopsis: Music is Simon’s life, which is why he is devastated when a stroke destroys his hearing. He resists attempts to help him adjust to his new state, refusing to be counseled, refusing to learn sign language, and refusing to have anything to do with deaf culture. That is, until he meets G, a tough-as-nails girl dealing with her own deafness.

Where to find it: Print, e-book, and audiobook editions available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (free during US school closures).

10. Astrophysics For Young People In A Hurry

Authors: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Gregory Mone, Gabrielle de Cuir

Synopsis: This is astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s best-selling guide to the cosmos, adapted for young listeners. From the basics of physics to big questions about the nature of space and time, the book breaks down the mysteries of the cosmos into bite-sized pieces, with extra explanations to make even the trickiest concepts accessible. 

Where to find it: Print edition available at the NLB; audiobook available on Audible (paid) and Audible Stories (during US school closures).

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