There are lots of ways to get free books for kids. Some are easy. Others take a little more effort. We’re going to look at a variety of ways you can get free books for kids by mail, as well as online (ebooks) and in-person.
Access to books is one of the main challenges for reluctant readers, who often have limited options in their community and at home when it comes to books. We hope this guide can help bridge that gap.
While some of the resources below are dedicated to providing free books to children, others offer a wide range of titles for different age groups. Please be aware that not all resources below will be age appropriate for your kid.
Don’t have a lot of time? Download and print our Free Books for Kids poster. For the complete list with details and instructions, keep reading.
Free Book Programs
Let’s start with programs that provide free books for kids. Free book programs work by signing up to be a part of the program, which then sends you free books by mail. Easy.
Dolly Parton Imagination Library
The most well-known reading program is the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, which is dedicated to providing free books by mail to children from birth to age five.
How It Works
The Imagination Library partners with what they call Local Champions. Local Champions are businesses, school districts and other organizations that cover the costs of purchasing and mailing free books for kids around the world.
To find out if there are Local Champions in your area (and thus if your child can receive free books), you can use the IL Check Availability system. Once your child is enrolled, they will receive one free book a month.
Barnes & Noble Summer Reading Program
Barnes & Noble’s Summer Reading Program allows children to earn a free book by reading. The only catch: you have to pick up your free book in person.
How It Works
Fill out the B&N Summer Reading Journal. You have to list eight books. Then take the journal into any Barnes & Noble to redeem the coupon for a free book.
Harlequin Reader Service
Harlequin is one of the leading suspense and romance publishers in the world. Their Reader Service is a paid monthly subscription program, but they will send you 2 free books by mail of your choice to start. After that, no obligations.
How It Works
Fill out the Harlequin Reader Service Application and select your 2 free books. If you don’t wish to continue with the monthly subscription, simply cancel anytime.
Braille Books Program
Run by the American Action Fund for Blind Children & Adults, the Braille Books Program supplies popular children’s books in braille editions.
How It Works
Simply fill out the Braille Books Program Application and submit. Your child will receive a new free book by mail every month.
Free Book Exchanges
Book exchanges are exactly what they sound like: you exchange your book for another. Free. The sites below connect readers together from all over the world, swapping books and in some cases tracking just how far a book has traveled.
Book Crossing invites members to let books loose “into the wild” for strangers to find. Or you can setup “controlled releases” for other members to pick up.
How It Works
Signup on the Book Crossing website. Once you’re a member, you can print off Book Crossing labels to attach to books you want to give away. And you can find Book Crossing books near you using their online Book Hunting system.
Book Mooch allows users to earn points that they can use to get free books by mail from other Moochers.
How It Works
Signup to become a Moocher. You can earn points by listing books in your account that you want to give away, and also by giving away those books. To continue to earn free books, you have to give away at least one book for every two you receive.
While they’re called Paperback Swap, this service actually allows users to swamp more than just paperbacks. Like Book Mooch, Swap lets you list books you want to give away and request books you want sent to you. Just pay for postage.
How It Works
Register on the Paperback Swap website. Once you’re a member, you can list the books you want to give away. Listing books earns you credits, as does giving away books that someone requests. You use your credits to “buy” books that you request from other members. Easy.
Believe it or not, many people give away books for free on Twitter. You can use #BooksForTrade and #ARCsForTrade (for Advanced Reader Copies) to find users willing to ship books to you either for free or by trade.
Free Book Giveaways
Book giveaways are generally contests. You enter the giveaway and if you are selected you are sent free books. We have also listed here a few specialty giveaways that are not contests, but are instead free giveaways for anyone who signs up.
Because a giveaway basically works the same no matter who is running it, we have simply listed all the major giveaways below.
Book Giveaways (Contests)
Our Own Reluctant Reader Books Giveaway
Every month we send a free book to a lucky subscriber. Simply sign up for our monthly newsletter, and we’ll enter your name into our contest. If you win, we will send you one our books free by mail.
No hassles. Unsubscribe anytime.
Book Giveaways (Not Contests)
You can get free recipe books from both Jiffy and Sun-Maid. Simply fill out the order form and bingo!
You can also checkout the giveaways at Leite’s Culinaria, which gives away cookbooks and much more.
Kellog’s Family Rewards
Not technically a giveaway. You can get free books, coloring books and other freebies when you earn points by purchasing Kellog’s products. If you already buy Kellog’s products, just upload your receipts and you’re on your way.
My Reader Rewards lets you earn points for a variety of actions. You can then use those points for free books.
Bibles for America will send you free bibles simply by signing up and requesting one.
PJ Library is for Jewish families. Sign up your child and receive free books for kids every month.
Book publishers routinely give out thousands of free Advanced Reader Copies of books that have not yet hit the stores. These ARCs are sent to book reviewers, booksellers and many everyday people to drum up publicity for a book’s release.
Many publishers can be contacted directly, and you can request an ARC of particular titles. Be aware that ARCs are not finished copies. They often have blank covers and sometimes have errors in the text that have not been corrected yet.
Simon & Schuster
Simon & Schuster is one of the so-called Big 5 publishers, meaning they are one of the largest in the world. To request free Advanced Reader Copies, you will want to reach out to the proper division of the company.
They have a single contact for all their children’s books: email@example.com. You can find the name of the marketing vice president in the link above.
Riveted (Simon Teen)
Riveted is the teen division of Simon & Schuster. While you can request ARCs from S&S through the mail above, you can sign up for the Riveted newsletter and immediately download a free teen novel.
Harper Collins is another Big 5 publisher. As with S&S, you would want to reach out to the proper book division to request a free ARC.
The contact email for the children’s division is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
MacMillan asks for you to fill out a form to share background information about yourself. They are seeking a diverse body of advanced readers. The information is optional, however.
You can make ARC requests from specific divisions, such as the children’s division: email@example.com.
FIREreads is a smaller publisher with far fewer titles and copies of books to give away for free. Even so, they have two options: you can become a regular reviewer (you would need to be able to write and publish reviews), or you can request a single book.
Curiosity Quills is another small publisher. You can request free books by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
BookSirens is worth checking out for two reasons. First, the link above will take you to a page where they list numerous small and large publishers who offer Advanced Reader Copies. It is a thorough and up to date list.
Second, you can become a BookSirens reviewer and get access to ARCs from multiple publishers.
BookSirens is actually a company that services writers. They work with writers to ensure that a writer’s book gets plenty of reviews and publicity. They do this by having thousands of reviewers reading free books and reviewing them.
Book Review Sites
If you are looking for a steady stream of free books for kids and you don’t mind writing reviews and managing a blog, then you may want to consider becoming a book reviewer. Book review websites send thousands of Advanced Reader Copies to book reviewers every month.
While you can request ARCs directly from the publisher, being a reviewer with a major book review site allows you access to ARCs from every publisher in the industry.
Be aware though that these sites take book reviewing seriously. If you can not commit to reading and reviewing books regularly, then these sites are not a good option.
That said, reviews don’t have to be long or amazingly well-written. If you don’t like a book, you can say so. These sites want honest reviews from real readers.
The largest book review site is likely NetGalley. You can register with NetGalley easily and become a reviewer. Once you do, you will have access to thousands of digital ARCs to read and review.
Like NetGalley, Edelweiss is a major book review community. You can create a free account and have instant access to ebooks and the thousands of other Edelweiss readers and reviewers in their system.
LibraryThing is another member site with a huge community of readers. You can easily become a member. Once you do, you can look through the thousands of free books available in their system.
Unlike NetGalley and Edelweiss, LibraryThing will actually send you free books by mail. You simply request a book, and if you are selected the book is sent to you by mail. Since all members can request a book and there are limited ARCs of each book, you don’t always get the title you want.
Enchanted Book Promotions
Enchanted is a pretty small affair with a limited selection of titles. On the flip side, though, all you need is an Amazon account so that you can leave reviews on Amazon. No need to have a book blog or anything else.
YABookStop is a Facebbok group devoted to connecting Young Adult writers with real readers who will read ARCs and write reviews. Every day authors and publishers post offers for ARCs that they are willing to send to you for free.
All you have to do is join the group and request any free book you want in the comments section of a post. Easy.
Magazines, Coloring Books & Comics
If you’re looking for free magazines by mail, coloring books or comics, there are a few options you can try.
ValueMags is a resource that lists current free magazines from around the internet. You can’t signup on the ValueMags website. Instead, their links will take you to the publisher offering the free magazine. In many cases, they are offering free digital copies.
Since the selection changes all the time, ValueMags is worth checking in with every month.
Guide2Free is another aggregator site that lists free deals from around the internet. You can find postings for free magazines by mail, as well as free books and Amazon gift cards and all sorts of fun stuff.
Hunt4Freebies is similar to Guide2Free. While the link above is supposed to be dedicated to free magazines, they also list free ebooks on the same page. Scroll down to find offers for both.
National Inquirer has a free coloring book that you can download and print out called Bee a Scientist. Or you can register an account and request a copy through the mail.
Color Our Collections
Libraries, museums and cultural collections around the world have opened up their doors through the Color Our Collections project. You can access free coloring books from any of the organizations involved. Simply print out the coloring book and you can color pages taken directly from exhibits in museums and libraries from around the world.
Contributors include organizations like the Princeton University Library, the New York Academy of Medicine, the Ukrainian National Tchaikovsky Academy of Music, and the Bibliothèque d’étude et de conservation de Besançon.
For children between the ages of 5 and 9, you can get a free subscription to LEGO Life Magazine. Simply sign up and they will send you new editions 5 times a year.
Free Comic Books Day
Free Comic Book Day happens once a year. Generally it has been in May, but in 2021 it was held in August. On Free Comic Book Day, anyone can go into a participating comic shop and receive free comics.
Not every comic is available for free. But there is a wide range of free comics offered every year (see the link above).
To find out if there is a participating comic retailer near you, you can use this Find a Realtor.
Bookseller conferences are major events put on by divisions of the American Booksellers Association. They connect publishers, bookstores and writers together every year.
The purpose of a bookseller conference is for booksellers to get a chance to see what publishers will be releasing later in the year. Booksellers generally go home with dozens if not hundreds of free Advanced Reader Copies.
It costs money to attend a bookseller conference. However, most of the conferences have financial assistance for youth who want to attend. It helps if you know a bookstore owner who will act as your “sponsor”.
While certainly not for everyone, if you can attend a bookseller conference, you can come back with a major haul. Conferences are regional and serve entire sections of the country.
- California Independent Booksellers
- Great Lakes Independent Booksellers
- Midwest Independent Booksellers
- Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers
- New Atlantic Independent Booksellers
- New England Independent Booksellers
- Pacific Northwest Independent Booksellers
- Southern Independent Booksellers
If you want free books, the easiest and simplest way is with ebooks. Ebooks cost far less for publishers to distribute (no printing or shipping costs), and so there are more options available than with print books.
Free ebook sites offer a range of titles. Many have thousands of classic titles. Copyright only lasts so many years, and once the copyright runs out a book goes into the “public domain”, meaning that anyone can have access to the book and do what they want with it (this is why we have books like Pride & Prejudice & Zombies…because Jane Austen’s copyright ran out many years ago).
Other free ebook sites have more modern books. Some function like libraries, where you can check out brand new ebooks for a short period of time.
Some even offer free comics or graphic novels (Free Books Sifter & FreeLibrary).
The charities listed here are dedicated to providing free books for kids, generally to low income families, schools or neighborhoods. To apply to these charities, you will need to work with your school or local library. You cannot apply as an individual.
Book Trust works through schools. Teachers can apply to become a Book Trust affiliate. They can start by filling out a Match Questionnaire to determine if their school and students are eligible.
Once a teacher is approved, students can select books to order each month, and books arrive for each month of the school year.
First Book is another charity that partners primarily with teachers, although librarians, after school program leaders, health care providers, and community programs are all eligible. Simply register to become a network member. Once you’re registered, you can order free books and other resources for students and children.
Kids Need to Read
Kids Need to Read promotes reading and literacy by providing books to underprivileged schools, libraries and communities. A school, library or literacy program must fill out the Kids Need to Read Application to apply (you must have a Google account for the form to work).
Library of Congress Surplus Books
The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world (over 170 million items). They have so many books that they give away books they no longer need. Schools, libraries, non-profits and other eligible organizations can submit an application to receive free books.
The only catch is that the selection of titles must be done in-person. If you live near Washington DC, great. If you don’t, then you can appoint someone from the area to go to the Library of Congress to make the selections.
Hachette Book Group has a range of charitable efforts made on behalf of promoting literacy. They donate over 100,000 books each year to schools, libraries and other organizations.
To receive free books from Hachette, contact their donation department at email@example.com.
Other Nifty Ideas
Little Free Libraries
Little Free Libraries have become a national rage in the last ten years. The idea is simple. A small “library” is constructed and placed somewhere in a community (usually a residential area). Think of it like a very large bird house, one big enough to hold a few dozen books.
People leave books in the Little Free Library that they want to get rid of, and anyone can come by and take a book or two. That’s it.
To see if there is a Little Free Library near you, check out the LFL Search Tool. Not all LFLs are registered though, so it’s possible there are some in your community that are not listed on the website.
Friends of the Library
Every library has a Friends of the Library group. These are volunteers who organize book sales and other fundraisers to support the library. Libraries hold book sales to get rid of books they no longer need and to unload donations.
Most Friends of the Library groups are understaffed. Often, they have no young people involved in the Friends at all.
One way to get free books would be for a kid to offer to help their local Friends of the Library setup and organize for a book sale. Offer to help in exchange for taking home a few bags of books. Most groups are so thrilled to have young people involved, they’ll give you as many books as you like.
Barnes & Noble
Not every book sells at the bookstore. Giant retailers like B&N keep popular books for a long time, marking them down in their Bargain Section for a year or more. But those titles often don’t sell out, and B&N must get rid of them.
Some are donated to local libraries. Others are distributed to online sellers. And many are just thrown away.
One route to free books would be to contact your local B&N and ask what they do with books they have to get rid of. While their official policy is likely that they cannot give those books to individuals, the booksellers who work there are human beings too. Build a relationship with those booksellers, and they may be willing to bend the rules and let you know just when they plan to dump a load of books in the back dumpster.
Remember those bookseller conferences we mentioned earlier? Well, in addition to all the ARCs that booksellers pick up at conferences, your local bookstore also receives boxes of Advanced Reader Copies every month from publishers.
You local bookstore is drowning in ARCs. Most of which they don’t want, and none of which they can sell (ARCs are not for resale).
Contact your local bookstore and ask what they do with their ARCs. Ask if there is anything you could do in exchange for them giving you their unwanted ARCs.
Most English teachers have stacks of books in their classroom. What you may not know is that schools also tend to have hundreds (or thousands) of old books collecting dust on shelves in storage rooms.
This is because schools buy books in bulk for teaching, but then educators choose to teach different books. This leaves large sets of untaught books just sitting untouched in storage rooms for years.
The same thing happens to English textbooks, many of which have dozens of short stories and whole novels in them.
Talk to your English teacher. Ask if they have any books sitting in storage that they are not using. And ask if it might be possible to either borrow or keep some of those books.
Churches also keep lots of books on hand, although obviously of a more religious nature. However some churches also run literacy programs and have non-religious titles as well.
Talk to your pastor/reverend/church-leader, and ask if they have books they would be willing to lend out (or give away). The selection might be small, but they will likely be more than happy to connect you with a good book (or the Good Book).
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