Free e-books for kids on the horizon through White House initiative

Young readers will soon have access to thousands of book titles for free through a new White House initiative with …

Young readers will soon have access to thousands of book titles for free through a new White House initiative with the New York Public Library.

President Barack Obama last week announced the new program, which aims to provide children from low-income families with access to 10,000 e-books for free in the coming months.

The New York Public Library is building the e-reader app, which will give readers ages 4-18 access to the digital books on a smartphone or tablet. Working with the Digital Public Library of America, the library is designing the app to help connect readers with books that match their reading level and interests.

The reading initiative is also made possible through $120 million in e-book commitments from publishing giants who have pledged to donate the titles over a three-year period.

Participants include the five major publishing houses: Macmillan, which is providing unlimited access to all of the K-12 age-appropriate titles in its catalog of 2,500 books; Simon & Schuster, which is providing access to its entire e-catalog of books for children ages 4-14, totaling 3,000 titles; Penguin Random House; Hachette; and HarperCollins.

Participating independent publishers also include Bloomsbury, Lee & Low, Cricket Media and Candlewick Press, which is behind the popular “Judy Moody” series.

The White House e-book plan is part of its strategy to address inner-city problems by increasing educational opportunities for kids.

“If we’re serious about living up to what our country is about, then we have to consider what we can do to provide opportunities in every community, not just when they’re on the front page, but every day,” said Jeff Zients, Obama’s top economic adviser.

Research has found that 80% of low-income children lag below their grade level in reading skills and lack books at home, according to Zients.

Here’s a list of just some of the books that will be available for free to low-income children in the coming months through the White House’s e-book initiative:

“Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin
“Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo
“The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
“The Goldfinch” by Donna Tart
“The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
“The Wonderful World of Oz” by Frank Baum
“Dracula” by Bram Stoker
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley
“The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells
“Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson
“The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.”
“Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela” 
“I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban” by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb

(with Reuters)

Meredith Deliso