Keeping babies fed, clothed, and healthy can be expensive enough on its own, and making sure they’re entertained and educated can add a whole new level of financial strain on top of the initial costs of raising a child. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to access baby books for free, while still supporting the authors and illustrators that create them. Local libraries will often have a stash of baby books for parents of young’uns to borrow, but if you don’t have access to a traditional library, never fear – there are other places to find free baby books to read to your little one.
1. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
Being one of the best people – not just in the music industry but, you know, in general – Dolly Parton stepped up to help address literacy problems amongst kids by founding her Imagination Library. Running since 1995, the Imagination Library has so far sent nearly 140 million free books to children of all ages in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and Ireland – and baby books are included. You can sign up on the website at Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.
If you’re based in the UK, you can sign up to receive free books from Bookstart, part of the BookTrust programme. Bookstart gives free books to preschool children, and also supplies education packs and reading resources for families. The programme also offers dual-language books for babies growing up in bilingual or non–English speaking households, and plenty of interactive stories and games so families can read, rhyme and play together.
3. Freecycle and other swapping programmes
While some baby books will become beloved, much-read and forever-kept favourites, others won’t quite hit the spot, and parents will be happy to offload them to make room for books aimed at older readers. Look on websites like Freecycle, or keep an eye out for local parent-and-baby swap meets – you might be able to pick up some great free baby books that someone else’s child has outgrown.
Authors, book bloggers and publishers often run giveaways, particularly when a new book is hitting the shelves. Following your favourite picture book author or publisher on social media is a great way to stay aware of any free baby book giveaways that are going on – often, you’ll just need to follow and retweet to stand a chance of winning. If you do win, leaving a review on places like Amazon and Goodreads is a great way to thank the author.
5. Kindle, Smashwords and other e-outlets
Many self-published authors will put ebooks up for free on Kindle, or on websites like Smashwords. Authors of baby books are no exception, and if you search around, you might find a wonderful new story for your little one. Do double-check that the book you’re downloading has been offered for free by the author, though – sadly, ebook piracy is a huge problem, and can cause massive financial damage to authors. There are many authors that are happy to put stories up for free, so be sure to choose these.
6. Little Free Libraries
Many towns and cities have “little libraries”, set up by local businesses or private citizens, where people can bring and leave books. My local town has one set up in a disused telephone box, and Oxford’s Story Museum has a little library in its entrance archway where visitors can trade all kinds of children’s books, including free baby books.
The website Storyberries has a huge number of free stories, poems and fairytales for young children, including for babies. Sections like their ‘five-minute bedtimes stories’ and their nursery rhymes resources might be particularly useful for parents and carers looking to settle their babies into a sleep or playtime routine.
8. World Book Day
As well as being an annual event, World Book Day is an ongoing programme intended to ensure that every child can get a book of their own. World Book Day gives out vouchers that can be exchanged for a free book from a list of specially-produced books – including free baby books – or used to get money off a book that isn’t on the World Book Day list.
Hopefully, these ideas will help you and your baby find a new favourite book, without breaking the bank – and as new books are being added to these schemes all the time, there’ll be plenty to read!
If you’re looking for something for an older child, try some of the suggestions from our post on Free Books for Kids. For suggestions on specific baby books, see our 50 Must-Read Board Books for Babies.