Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday, 11 April 2020

Help! I need a book. Now! #2

Continuing on from reading suggestions for younger children, this week Jennie and Nella look at online reading options for teenagers to keep them engaged and interacting with literature.

Getting started with digital literature
Source: AndreyKr, (2012).
Row of Audiobooks and Headphones.
Deposit Photos 
Online reading options for young adults are not as easily available than those for younger readers where texts tend to be shorter and lend themselves to retelling and video recording. One important consideration is age appropriateness as the teen market covers a broad spectrum of maturity – from 13 year olds just starting to test their reading wings with more challenging content through to 18 year olds who are mixing YA titles with adult reading material as well. For those with younger teens in the house it is recommended that parents and care givers actively support their children in making wise book choices. Reading Time and ReadPlus are terrific sources for detailed reviews and age recommendations. Common Sense Media mainly cover US publications and provide an age indictor; but also read the reviews to help you assess the content and themes.

Synch: Audiobooks for Teens is a summer audiobook program geared at teenagers 13+ (note that some titles are definitely for the upper end of this range). As this selection covers a diverse range of interests and maturity levels it is best to read the reviews carefully and listen to the sample clips first, especially with younger teenagers. Many adults will also find titles of interest. The program kicks off at the end of April with two free titles made available each week for 13 weeks. They are only available in the week that they are listed so it is best to sign up for their newsletter or follow on FB to ensure you get the updates. To access you must first register and then follow the instructions for downloading and setting up the required app, Sora (an Overdrive product). Some titles may have restricted access for those outside the US but in the last several years this has not been a problem.

Check-in with your school’s teacher librarian or library staff to find out if the school has an ebook collection available for borrowing. If so, then library staff should be able to provide a link to the school library’s online catalogue and required borrowing credentials for access. Due to the rapidly changing educational environment this may be an option that is currently being investigated by the school, so stay tuned for updates and future developments.

As per recommendations last week in Help! I need a book. Now! #1 make the most of the public library. For Tasmanian readers, join Libraries Tasmania if you need to, then start exploring the excellent collection of eBooks and eAudio titles available for download from the eLibrary. This virtual collection includes eBooks and stories; eMagazines and eComics; eMusic; eFilms and eLanguages if you wish to harness enforced home time to learn another language. There are many other online resources to explore from this page including a range of information magazines. Great for adults too!

Sometimes searching online catalogues can be a bit overwhelming so the following examples provide a taste of what is on offer. Here’s a few popular YA authors to get you started. It is worth noting that, in general, Australian publishers have been slow to take up epublishing particularly in regard to eaudio files. Many of the library’s offerings are from overseas but you might like to start by exploring these Australian authors as a sample.

On the 2020 CBCA Shortlist:Tristan Bancks – Detention – ebook and eaudio
Helena Fox – How it Feels to Float - ebook
Lisa Fuller – Ghost Bird - ebook
Malla Nunn – When the Ground is Hard - ebook
Vikki Wakefield -This is How we Change the Ending – ebook



Popular Australian YA authors
Sarah Epstein - Deep Water and Small Spaces (just released) – ebooks
Karen Foxlee - The Midnight Dress – ebook & eaudio and Lenny’s Book of Everything -ebook
Scot Gardner – Changing Gear – ebook
Megan Spooner – Hunted and Sherwood – eaudio
Amie Kaufman – Illuminae Files (trilogy) – ebooks; Auror Rising – ebook; Ice Wolves and Scorch Dragons – ebooks
Amie Kaufman & Megan Spooner also collaborate –  Starbound trilogy – eaudio
Cally Black – In the Dark Spaces – ebook
Kate Forsyth has a number of ebooks for adults and teens

A Community of Readers
One downside of home isolation for avid readers is a lack of community to share the latest find, talk about great books, unpack characters, follow your favourite authors and to generally have a good yarn about the books you are reading. Looking up favourite authors online is a good start to see if there are any attached book communities (see editor’s note in #1 on Amy Kauffman’s and Jay Kristoff’s Instagram chat about Aurora Rising as an example).


Inside a Dog (State Library of Victoria) is a virtual meeting and sharing space for teen readers. Membership is free – find out what’s trending, read reviews and hook up with other teens and YA authors to discuss books. Just as a taste, there is a recent interview with Sarah Epstein talking about her new book Deep Water (listed above) . A Quarantine Reading Challenge has just begun – a great incentive to keep YAs connected to books and provide purpose and engagement within a teenage community. 

Publishers are stepping up in this time of literary isolation. Simon & Schuster’s Rivetted newsletter, presents a changing range of free ebooks to read each month, industry news in the YA market and a virtual bookclub. In April, City of Bones (Cassandra Clare) is one of the free books on offer and is also pegged for the virtual book club, starting on Instagram on 17 April. Readers get to vote from the free titles for the next bookclub and active participation and engagement is encouraged.

Free reading opportunities
Audible’s free reading options (to read online, not download) include Tween, Teen and Literary Classics (as well as some foreign language options if your children are learning another language). There are some great titles across these categories – contemporary and classic including Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J. K. Rowling), Cirque da Freak (Obert Skye), A Summer to Die (Lois Lowry), Hollow City (Ransom Riggs), Talon and the rest of this compelling dragon series (Julie Kagawa) and Shades Children (Garth Nix).

Audio Literature Odyssey is a good source for classics for older students studying literature. The website is run by voice actor and writer Nikolle Doolin, and she narrates all the audiobooks on the website providing access to a series of engaging podcasts. She brings the pages of classic literature to life in this engaging literary podcast. The readings include Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, Henry James, , Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and many more. The collection is not vast and podcasts can be downloaded in chapters.

There are a number of sites offering free access to books and parents are encouraged to check these carefully as some may offer illegal copyrighted material or require the disclosure of personal information for on selling – take the time to read the registration and agreement pages. Many ‘free’ books are actually older titles and classics that are no longer under copyright and can be easily accessed in reputable and familiar sites such as iTunes  and Gutenberg.
The Tech Edvocate: Where can teachers find free audiobooks for their students? provides a useful article with leads to locating free audiobooks on services that you may already have access to through home subscriptions, or your school, or public library.
Gismo’s provides a compilation of free ebook sites for teens and audiobooks online.

Comical Options
Comics online tend to use are arrange of different software tools to facilitate reading and it is worth checking for any instructions before starting a book. Remember that Libraries Tasmania (and other public libraries) provide access to a large number of digital magazines and comicsMahnaz Dar (2020) provides an annotated list for middles school and teen readers in 19 Webcomics to Keep Kids and Teens Engaged that is well worth exploring. Read Comics Online includes superhero titles but is very heavy on advertising which disrupts reading.

Of course, there are more to be found. Please encourage your teenagers to read and share the online books that they discover and keep on reading.

Jennie Bales, retired teacher librarian, CBCA Tasmania Committee Member and Social Media Coordinator (i.e. the blog editor)

Nella Pickup, retired librarian, reader, member of National Executive - International Board of Books for Young People/IBBY Australia Inc

Editor’s note: If you can add to this list for teenagers please post a comment.

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