As the weather turns colder and the days grow shorter, kids will be spending less time outside and more time cooped up indoors. Plus, school looks very different this fall, with many districts using hybrid or fully remote learning models as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage on, which means young students have already been stuck at home more than usual this fall (after being stuck home during the summer). I know my two kids are home more and spending less time attending classes in person, playing sports and participating in after-school clubs and activities.
What does this development mean in my household? You guessed it, seemingly endless arguments about screen time! (If screen police officer was a real job, my wife and I would be grossly overqualified.) We encourage our kids to read as a way to occupy themselves for times when a friend isn’t around or a screen isn’t allowed. And to delay the next screen-time argument. And, of course, for all of the benefits reading provides a young mind — stimulating the brain and imagination, building empathy, increasing vocabulary, yada yada. As someone who has worked from home since well before the pandemic, sometimes I just need the house to be quiet without the guilt associated with granting extended screen time.
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With our local library operating on a reduced schedule, we’re going to find new ways to get books. Lots of books. In addition to Amazon orders and curbside pickup at our local bookstore, a book subscription could help our kids to keep the pages turning. If you’re facing a similar predicament, here are nine book subscription services geared toward kids, from board books to young adult novels.
To be clear, these are all about getting real, paper books to your home. While you should opt for contactless delivery and always wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after handling packages (see CDC guidelines here), the risk of infection from such deliveries is considered low. Still, if you’re looking for the digital equivalents (albeit with more screen time), check out Amazon Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited, Amazon FreeTime Unlimited and free library books via the Libby app. We update this list periodically.
Read more: K-12 online classes and activities to continue school at home during coronavirus
Let’s start with Amazon. If you’re a Prime member, you can subscribe to Prime Book Box, which delivers curated hardcover books for kids up to age 12. It costs $17 for the first box of books and $20 per box after that, and you can sign up to receive a box every one, two or three months. There are boxes for ages 0-2 years, ages 3-5, ages 6-8 and ages 9-12. The up-to-2-years-old box includes four board books, and the rest contain two hardcover books. You put in your preferences and Amazon will send you a preview of its selections, which you can revise before the box ships. Or you can skip the edit step and be surprised when the box arrives.
Bookroo has three age brackets for its book clubs: ages 0-3, ages 3-6 and ages 7-10. You’ll get three board books for the youngest group, two picture books for the middle group and two chapter books for the oldest group. You can sign up to receive an alternating subscription of board books and picture books if you have toddlers of differing ages. Or if you sign up for two separate subscriptions, you can get a 15% discount on the second subscription. You can’t preview the books before Bookroo sends them out, but it aims to find hidden gems you haven’t heard of before. And should you receive a book you already own, you can get a $5 credit if you send Bookroo a picture of you giving the duplicate to a friend. And the books Bookroo sends come individually wrapped — because what kid doesn’t love tearing open a gift?
With Literati Kids, you’re basically leasing books with an option to own. For $10 a month, you get five books per month but need to return them after the first week unless you want to buy them for what Amazon is currently charging for them. It’s a fun way to expose your kids to a bunch of different books without needing to buy each and every one. Literati provides a prepaid return label to make sending back the books you don’t want to keep free and fairly painless. Literati chooses a different theme each month for the books it sends and has five age brackets: Neo (0-3 years), Sprout (3-5 years), Nova (5-7 years), Sage (7-9 years) and Phoenix (9-12 years). And if moms and dads get jealous of their kid’s Literati books arriving each month, there’s also a Literati book club for adults.
This book club is run by Bethany Beach Books, an independent bookstore in Bethany Beach, Delaware. It has clubs for adults and three for kids: The Book Droplet (ages 3-7), Middle Grade (ages 8-12) and Young Adult (13 and up). You’ll get one book per month, chosen by the staff at the bookstore. The two older clubs feature paperback books, and the Book Droplet club features hardcover picture books. The Middle Grade club costs $8 or $9 a month, the YA club costs $10 or $11 a month and the Book Droplet club costs $17 or $18 a month. You’ll also be billed $4 a month for shipping for any of the clubs. You’ll need to put your trust in the bookstore staff because you aren’t able to offer any input about the types of books your kid likes to read, and you can’t return a book you receive if you happen to already own it.
Once Upon a Book
This book club feels a bit over the top, which makes it a great gift for parents or — better yet — grandparents of young adults. For $35 (plus $10 shipping in the US; you can double shipping for Canadian orders and more for international orders), Once Upon a Book Club sends a new young-adult title geared toward 14-year-olds and up — along with three to five individually wrapped gifts, each of which corresponds to a page number in the books. Your YA reader will need to employ some self-discipline because the gifts will act as spoilers if opened before they reach the given page in the book. Also included is a 5×7-inch print of a quote from the book and discussion questions and read-along dates for live discussions online. You can also send a one-time gift box instead of buying a subscription, which makes a great holiday present for the young readers on your list.
BookCase.Club is one of the less expensive book subscriptions at only $10 a month. It has age brackets of ages 0-2, 2-4, 5-6, 7-8 and preteen, and you can select a box for boys or girls. You get three books per month that are a mixture of activity books and picture or chapter books. There’s also a Teenage Dream club that features two YA novels each month. You can get 20% off your first order with code SweetSavings20.
Equal Opportunity Book Box
This book subscription service is just getting started and does two admirable things: it features books with diverse characters — each book it selects includes at least one character of color — and donates one book for every book it sells. It sends three picture books to you per month for kids between the ages of one and six. And it donates books to Bernie’s Book Bank, an organization that gets free books into the hands of underprivileged kids in Chicago. Each box from Equal Opportunity Book Box includes an info sheet about the month’s books and an educational drawing activity. It costs more per month than most book clubs, but each box you receive means three books are being donated to kids in need.
Similar to Equal Opportunity Book Box, OurShelves features books with diverse and inclusive characters from under-represented identities. Instead of sending out books monthly, however, this club operates on a quarterly schedule. It offers three clubs for kids: Sunshine Box (0-2 years), Rainbow Box (2-5 years) and Treehouse Box (5-8 years). For each subscription, you can choose to receive one, three or five books each quarter. Pricing for the three-book boxes is $36 for the Sunshine Box and $51 for either the Rainbow Box or Treehouse Box. Shipping is included. Discounts are available if you purchase an annual subscription, and you can save 10% if you buy a second subscription.
There are many book subscriptions on Cratejoy for both kids and young adults. Book boxes for kids range in price from $10 to $31 a month and feature everything from board and picture books to science- and art-themed activity books. For YA, there’s a mix of new and used book clubs that cost as little as $6 a month.
Paper books not your thing? Here are some resources for e-readers
- How to get free digital magazines from your library
- Best kids tablet for 2020: Amazon Fire, Apple iPad and more compared
- 10 ways to download and read books online for free
- 3 free ebooks to help you reduce stress and anxiety
- Best e-reader for 2020
- Amazon debuts its first ever Kindle Kids Edition