Promote Summer Reading with Free Ebooks

What are the best strategies to encourage summer reading? A gold star for each book read beside my name on the library wall worked for me one summer a long time ago. But mailing out gold stars this summer could get expensive, and the thrill of seeing your name on the wall in the library would be missing.

What would work today? A web page with students’ names and titles of the books they read might work if privacy regulations would allow this.

Cover showing Marines invading Guadalcanal

U.S. Marines on Guadalcanal

Cover with Bomber in SkyStarting with great narratives might also help motivate reading. Our most popular book in terms of downloads to date and sales on Amazon is “Helmet for My Pillow” by Robert Leckie. It was the basis of the HBO series “The Pacific.” It is a page turner about a young Marine who fought in Guadalcanal and in other bloody campaigns in the Pacific during World War II. In this first person account, you will feel you are right beside Robert Leckie as he and his fellow Marines are shelled by Japanese battleships at night, and bombed by Japanese airplanes during the day as they faced a fierce opponent on Guadalcanal.

“Serenade to the Big Bird” is almost as dramatic. In another first person, easy to read account, the war in the air over Europe doesn’t look too horrible to start. The narrator who went to the Air Force out of a journalism program in college is optimistic as his bombing runs over occupied France and over Germany start. But he soon sees the effects of war. This book is at a 6th grade reading level according to the Flesch-Kincaid analysis in Microsoft Word.

Moving away from military history, are titles such as “Sea and Earth: The Life of Rachel Carson” and “Benito Juarez: Builder of a Nation.” In the Carson book, young readers will see the intensity of the scientist and her drive to make the world a better place for all of us. Juarez, the only indigenous president in the history of Mexico modernized his country as he successfully freed it from a foreign invader. His life is inspiring and his story in the Emma Gelders Sterne biography is well-told at an easy to read 6.2 grade level.

Image of a woman leading children up a hillThe Thurgood Marshall biographies are some of my favorites in our catalogue. Marshall kept pushing and pushing and pushing even when he life was threatened. He just didn’t stop. I taught the books when they were in print and it went well. My immigrant students in New York City said that they liked learning about race in the United States. My African-American students liked seeing the picture of a man who looked like them on the cover of the book. The Marshall biographies are at a 10th grade reading level.

Our web site has many other easy to read titles about Black history. The story of how Mary McLeod Bethune devoted her life to education and founded a college is inspiring. “The Long Black Schooner” tells the story of the successful revolt on the Amistad. These books written by Emma Gelders Sterne are at a 7th grade reading level.

Feel free to take our ebooks and post them on your school’s web sites if you prefer to have control of content on your servers. But please write us at support@ebooksforstudents.org or call at (202) 464-9126 if this is your plan so we can track the use of our free ebooks this summer.

And of course, recommendations from your teachers about individual titles might encourage young readers.

Cover showing Bolivar standing in formal uniform

He Wouldn’t Be King: The Story of Simon Bolivar by Nina Brown Baker

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Download a mobi file for your Amazon device:

Reviews:
“A finely proportioned narrative.” The New York Times

“Worth its weight in gold. A warm dramatic story of a man whose career was one of the most astonishing and colorful the world has known.” Parents Magazine

SIMÓN BOLÍVAR, hailed as Liberator by the people of South America, occupies the same place in their affections that George Washington does in ours. An aristocrat and a wealthy man like Washington, he risked position, wealth, and life itself to free South America from the unhappy rule of Spain. Like Lincoln in his love for the common man, he brought about the abolition of slavery a generation before that institution was ended here.

HE WOULDN’T BE KING is the first modern biography of Bolívar in English for young people, yet history provides few more exciting tales than the march across the Andes of Bolívar’s small but dauntless army; it can offer few stories to compare in color and surprise with Bolivar’s courageous career.

Nina Brown Baker tells Bolívar’s story fully and vividly. She has not only so portrayed the ideals of the man that we are the better for knowing him, but she has also given us the background that enables us to understand both Bolívar and the South America of today.

More from the New York Times, New Books for Younger Readers, March 15, 1942.

By Ellen Lewis Buell. HE WOULDN’T BE KING. The Story Of Simon Bolivar. By Nina Brown Baker. Illustrated by Camilo Egas. 306 pages. New York: The Vanguard Press.

SIMÓN BOLÍVAR was a hero not merely through force of circumstances and period. He was truly cast in a heroic mold and should be known wherever greatness of spirit as well as deed is revered. His life is of special significance to us of the United States, not only be­cause of our growing sympathy with South America, but because it was from our own Revolution and our first leader, Washing­ton, that he drew much of the in­spiration to win freedom for his own part of the Americas.

It was a life so full and so dra­matic that there is plenty of room for both the fine biogra­phies for young people which this year has brought forth. It would indeed be difficult, and is unnec­essary. to make a final choice be­tween Elizabeth Waugh’s “Simón Bolivar: A Story of Courage,” previously reviewed in this department and Nina Brown Baker’s “He Wouldn’t Be King,” which has won the 1941 Intra-American Award annually pre­sented by the Society for the Americas. Mrs. Baker’s is per­haps more dramatic in its pres­entation of an essentially dra­matic life, and certainly there is a twinkling humor to throw into perspective some of the lighter aspects of a career and a strug­gle which inevitably took on at times a certain comic opera fla­vor, which really emphasizes the size of the task performed.

This would be good reading if only for the sketches of the col­orful figures which surrounded Bolívar: the picturesque, incredi­ble Páez: the dashing and equally incredible Manuela Sáenz, his eccentric tutor, Rodriguez; the loyal and charming Irishmen who fought under him. A host of such friends, and enemies too. come to life, but all these are properly dominated by the Liber­ator himself, and as the pattern of his life is unfolded in a finely proportioned narrative so is the greatness of his vision and of his achievement.

From a reviewer on Amazon:

“He Wouldn’t be King: The Story of Simon Bolivar,” by Nina Brown Baker is a delightful, very easy to read book that should be required reading in every American High School. Certainly, every High School student across the United States is well aware of the importance of George Washington but what about Simon Bolivar? Or Jose de San Martin for that matter? These men are great Western Hemisphere military generals responsible for freeing most of South America from strict colonial rule?

Bolivar, often affectionately called the Liberator, freed Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia from Spanish oppression. San Martin freed Argentina and Chile. To this end, Bolivar had a boyish hero worship of Washington and regularly drew inspiration from the North American revolution. An added bonus of this book is that the author does an excellent job describing Bolivar’s critical relationships with other dynamic Generals, particularly Antonio Jose de Sucre, Francisco de Paula Santander and Jose Antonio Paez. The narrative also documents the enormous importance of British and Irish volunteers who joined Bolivar and the struggle against Spanish rule.

The narrative starts with Bolivar’s privileged childhood, his intellectual growth and finally his decision to lead his people to liberty. Bolivar is a great man, who frees the black man from slavery 46 years before Abraham Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. He also refused to be King and chose instead to be his nation’s first President…like he beloved George Washington.

Baker downplays his many romances and the tuberculosis that eventually killed him. Nevertheless, the text is meticulously researched, well-written and objective. Although this book was published in 1941, it is still very relevant today and would be an excellent choice for a High School history book report or detailed term paper. The text is also complete with many beautiful black and white illustrations. Highly recommended.
Bert Ruiz

Thurgood Marshall: From His Early Years to Brown by Michael D. Davis and Hunter R. Clark

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Download in mobi format for Amazon devices:

Editorial reviews:

“Michael Davis and Hunter Clark have crafted a thoughtful, carefully researched and focused biography.” —USA Today

“Well-written, informative and lively.” —People

“Michael D. Davis and Hunter R. Clark offer a masterfully written tale of an American legend.” — Gannett News Service

“Filled with the same fire, passion and humor that drove Marshall’s life, Thurgood Marshall is a revealing portrait of a pioneering lawyer.” —National Black Review

This ebook edition is the first half of the 1992 print edition of “Thurgood Marshall: Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench.” This new edition covers Thurgood Marshall’s youth, education, and the legal strategies he used, and the cases he argued leading up to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. The reviews above are from the print edition.

Publisher’s Note:
Chapter 1 describes Thurgood Marshall’s place in history.
Chapter 2 explains the challenges Marshall and the attorneys of the N.A.A.C.P were to face as they built the precedents that led to the Brown decision.
Chapter 3 is about Marshall’s childhood in Jim Crow Baltimore, and is probably the best starting point for high school students who want to begin with a straight-forward story of the life of a courageous leader. This chapter lends itself to writing assignments such as “Compare your public school years to what Thurgood Marshall experienced in Baltimore.” Not only will students have to read the chapter to complete the writing assignment, but there will be space for their own voices in the assignment. They may find this comparison more interesting than a book report.
Chapter 4 describes his years in Howard University Law School, and the work of his mentor, Charles Hamilton Houston, who saw how the law school and its graduates could fight racial injustice.
Subsequent chapters describe the work Marshall did on the cases leading up to the Brown decision, his civil rights work in the South, and his push for fair treatment of Black G.I.s during the Korean War.

Photo of Thurgood Marshall in his 60's

Thurgood Marshall: His Triumph in Brown, His Years on the Supreme Court

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Download in mobi for Amazon devices:

 

Editorial Reviews:

“Michael Davis and Hunter Clark have crafted a thoughtful, carefully researched and focused biography.” —USA Today

“I highly recommend Thurgood Marshall by Mike Davis and Hunter Clark. This impressive book captures the sweeping drama and courageous struggles that have filled Thurgood Marshall’s life and career. The story of Justice Marshall is that of one of the greatest Americans in the twentieth century. Davis and Clark provide a compelling portrait of Marshall’s immense humanity and integrity in this fine biography.” —Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta.

“Thurgood Marshall is a giant of a man at a time when giants are scarce and desperately needed. This wonderful biography takes his measure.” —(Rev.) Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., President Emeritus, University of Notre Dame

“Davis and Clark have given us an engagingly written and conscientiously researched biography of a twentieth-century icon. It should be widely read and much discussed by all who care about the large, principled issues Justice Marshall’s life embodies.” —David Levering Lewis, author of W. E. B. Dubois: Biography of a Race

“Michael B. Davis and Hunter R. Clark have written an interesting and informative biography of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall directed toward a general audience. The current work, with its fluid, readable style, reflects the authors’ backgrounds in the popular press, where both have published extensively.”—Mississippi Quarterly

This ebook edition is the second half of the 1992 print edition. This new edition covers Thurgood Marshall’s victory in Brown, the resistance to the Brown decision, and his years on the Supreme Court. The reviews above are from the print edition of 1992 titled, Thurgood Marshall:Warrior at the Bar, Rebel on the Bench.

 

No money for tablets. Read ebooks on home computers with Google Play Books or Calibre.

Obviously, the quickest way to provide reading experiences for students is to suggest titles on this web site, or Project Gutenberg, or Standard Ebooks or another free ebook site. You may want to provide a suggestion of what program to use to read the ebooks such as Calibre or Moon Plus Reader or Google Play Books which is mentioned below. And there is a great deal of information on the web about how to move downloaded ebooks onto tablets. It can be automatic if a student already has an ebook app installed on the tablet. (We do find that for some reason, ebooks won’t upload to Google Play Books right after a download from Project Gutenberg. We see an UPLOAD FAILED message after trying to upload to Google Play Books. We have to find the ebook in a folder on a tablet and upload it to Google Play Books from there. If you experience this problem, suggest that your students skip Google Play Books and install and use Moon Plus Reader, a free app which has never failed to upload and open an ebook.)


But some students don’t have tablets or the Internet at home


These students don’t need tablets or the Internet to enjoy ebooks.

How can students read without tablets or the internet?

Schools that have not closed could give each student a $3 thumb drive. With this drive students could go to terminals in the school library, and transfer copies of ebooks and  a copy of Calibre to install at home on Windows or Macintosh. Using the Add books icon in Calibre is as friendly as computing gets.

For years I resisted reading ebooks on a computer screen because of the glare on the screen, but the ebook experience with Calibre is decent.  I have edited a number of books using Readium, an app similar to Calibre without much eye strain. But Google is ending its support for Readium. I love the large fonts and large pages in Calibre. Calibre provides the reader with a much larger page than any ereader or tablet.

For students using Chromebooks at home, Calibre will not work, but Google Play Books is excellent. It works on Chromebooks, Android tablets, Windows computers and all Apple devices.

With ebooks your students can adjust the screens to use larger fonts, and  there is research which shows that  struggling readers prefer larger fonts.

Here is what a page in Calibre looks like. With the F11 key in Calibre, the menu on the side will disappear, and a screen exactly like the one below will appear.

With the roll out of Chromebooks in many school districts, and much more home ownership of laptops and desktop computers, it could be time for new reading experiences with Calibre or Readium. Unfortunately, Calibre does not have a version for Chromebooks, but Readium will work on Chromebooks.

In the future, It  might be interesting to see if students preferred convertible or flip screen Chromebooks running Google apps to standard laptop Chromebooks.  The flip screen will provide a tablet experience.

Sea and Earth: The Life of Rachel Carson

Download in epub format for Chromebooks, and Apple devices:


Download for Kindle Fires or other Amazon devices:

This is the story of the most important science writer of the 20th century. With “Silent Spring” Rachel Carson shocked Americans into reevaluating the man-made chemicals that have polluted our whole environment. Carson “jolted the entire country into awareness of the problem” of pesticides.” Her book “launched the environmental movement; provoked the passage of the Clean Air Act…the Clean Water Act…and led to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency.”

By drawing much of his story from the recollections of Rachel Carson’s friends and colleagues, the author presents a well-rounded portrait of a woman who was a dedicated scientist and gifted writer, a devoted daughter and friend, and above all, a determined defender of the natural world she understood so well.

This biography won the Christopher Award in 1971 which is presented to the producers, directors, and writers of books, motion pictures and television specials that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit”. It is given by The Christophers, a Christian organization founded in 1945 by the Maryknoll priest James Keller.

cover of Helmet for My Pillow with 7.4 Grade Level

Helmet for My Pillow: From Parris Island to the Pacific by Robert Leckie (Free Copies)

To read this ebook using Google Play Books on your tablet or computer, or iBooks on an iPad, download this epub format.

To read on a device from Amazon, here is the ebook in mobi format.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times, September, 1957.

“…This is an old story, but it is told in a fresh and lovely voice. Robert Leckie writes with charm, with personal humility, with humor, with a rare gift for capturing all that is human in the most inhuman of man’s activities.

He makes no bones about it—the war is what happened to him. The point of view is not the grand strategy of victory, but the immediate tactic of personal survival. By turns a boot, a machine gunner on Guadalcanal, a liberty hound in Australia, an intelligence scout on Peleliu—briefly a self-styled “brig rat” subsisting on bread and water and finally a casualty —Private Leckie fought the enlisted man’s battle.
By David Dempsey

 

From the Marine Corps Association and Foundation

Revisiting a Pacific War Classic by Lt. Col. Michael Grice

Robert Leckie’s “Helmet for My Pillow” has been my single favorite military book for over 30 years. Written from the perspective of a young participant in the great endeavor that was World War II, it is a soulful, wrenching, humorous, and insightful account of one youth’s journey into manhood via the Pacific campaigns spearheaded by the 1st Marine Division.

I first read it as a junior high school student in 1980, and I have reread it nearly every year since. It has framed my perspectives of the Marine Corps, of leadership, of enlisted service, of officers, and of combat as I have aged, matured, and risen through the ranks. Leckie doesn’t provide a technical, historical account consisting of units, maps, and strategy, but instead provides a humanistic view of the Marine Corps at war from the perspective of an often-bewildered observer caught up in the whirlwind of events.

Beginning with his rush to service after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Leckie brings the reader along as a fellow traveler on his journey to war. He presents his story through a framework of symbolism, simile, and metaphor; almost no character is identified by actual name but instead by title or attribute that the author chooses to best typify them. Generally warm to his peers (to whom have been bestowed titles such as “Hoosier,” “Chuckler,” and “Runner,” all so called because of their origins, habits, or claims to fame), he is critical of his seniors, most notably his officers. “Commando,” for example, was what we would consider an exceptionally motivated officer in the modern sense, but his Marines viewed him with suspicion and occasional terror as he attempted to utilize urban combat techniques in the dank jungles of the Pacific. “Commando sits on his brains,” says Leckie and his mates; they recognize that he is incredibly brave, but such bravery is not the only quality that a leader needs to possess in order to inspire men. He writes of officers who only venture into the lines when they hear that Leckie has somehow obtained a box of cigars; true to his status as a carefree private he ensures that they receive none.

Leckie is not uncomplimentary to all of his leaders, however, as he admiringly terms one of his lieutenants “Spearmint” because he has the lowly affectation for chewing gum. Spearmint they follow out of respect and admiration; Commando they follow because they are Marines, and Marines follow orders. The juxtaposition of leadership types and styles from the perspective of an articulate young private is an object lesson that all Marine leaders should heed, and there is no finer case study than Helmet for My Pillow.

The book should not be read only for the study in leadership, but also from the perspective of a Marine engaged in a seemingly endless conflict. Leckie speaks of timeless war where rumors of returning home rise and fall with the completion of each assault. He chronicles the chaotic creation of a newly formed division as it prepares to fight; the murderous landings and campaigns in Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu; and the adventures and misadventures of liberty in Australia.

His writing style is not the staccato regurgitation of battle lines, company positions, and enemy orders of battle, but instead it is the wrenching and visceral viewpoint of a machinegunner in a dank and slimy pit who waits in the dark for the yellow peril to blot him savagely from existence. He writes of idly watching crocodiles feast on the Japanese dead in the Tenaru River, most notably one he names “Chowhound” because the dead soldier floats in a soup of rice ripped free from his haversack when the amphibious animals savage his body. He speaks easily of the petrifying terror felt by them all when the banzai charges came, and of the following relief when the attacks are repulsed and the field of battle is thick with the corpses of slain Japanese soldiers. He writes much as Norman Mailer did in The Naked and the Dead; his story is about the military experience but is not intended to be a military book. He writes of life and love and, most intensely, of fear:

I had not looked into its foliage before the darkness and now I fancied it infested with Japanese. Everything and all the world became my enemy, and soon my very body betrayed me and became my foe . . . . I lay quivering, in that rotten hole while the darkness gathered and all creation conspired for my heart. How long? I lay for an eternity. There was no time. Time had disintegrated in that black void. There was only emptiness, and that is something; there was only being: there was only consciousness. Like the light that comes up suddenly in a darkened theatre, daylight came quickly. Dawn came, and so myself came back to myself. I could see the pale outlines of my comrades to right and left, and I marveled to see how tame my tree could be, how unforbidding could be its branches.

I know now why men light fires.

Marines of all ranks and ages should read Leckie’s memoir. It contains lessons that pertain to us all—lessons about combat, lessons about life and, most importantly, lessons about leadership. Leckie, who managed to reach the rank of private first class on several occasions, rose from bread and water in a transport’s brig to being decorated for valor while fighting the Japanese. His observations on his lot in life, his friends, and his leaders are not so dissimilar from those being made today in places like Marjeh in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. I have read his work dozens of times and will reread it many times more. I learn a little more each time I read it, and it is so well written that I look forward to reading it again.

Reprinted with permission of Lt. Colonel Michael Grice.

Directions on how to email this file to your Kindle device are here.
To add this mobi file to your Kindle for PC software to read the chapters on your computer, see instructions at http://tinyurl.com/y8gsazq.

The Kindle Personal Document Service allows teachers, or librarians to send a mobi file to up to 15 student Kindle email addresses at a time.

Benito Juarez: Builder of a Nation by Emma Gelders Sterne (For Young Adults).

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Download for Kindle Fire tablets and Amazon ereaders:

Anyone who has traveled in Mexico asks who Benito Juárez was. His story is told on the painted walls; his statue stands in every city and in the plazas of small villages. From one end of the country to the other schools, colleges, and universities bear his name. Streets and broad boulevards are named in his honor along with the names of the other revolutionary heroes who brought the Mexican people the national independence they prize above all else. Benito Juárez lived during the crucial period in Mexico’s emergence as a democratically self-governing nation and, perhaps more than any other single individual, helped to shape its destiny. With insight, understanding, and a highly developed sense of history, Emma Gelders Sterne has told the story of Benito Juárez, from birth in an obscure Indian village through an entire lifetime of effort and achievement on behalf of his native land.

Juarez was a lawyer of Zapotec ancestry who played a decisive role in a tumultuous period in the history of Mexico. A judge, a city councilman in Oaxaca, and a governor of the State of Oaxaca, he was a liberal power during political culture wars in mid-Nineteenth Century Mexico. He was imprisoned and exiled for his political stance when conservatives reigned in Mexico City and served as Minister of Justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court when the liberals were in power. In 1857, a revolution brought the conservatives back to power, and Juarez declared a rival government with himself as president. Ultimately, he and his side regained power. However, French forces invaded the country, and the conservatives invited the Austrian nobleman Maximilian Hapsburg to install a monarchy to replace Juarez’s government. War ensued, resulting in the Mexican army defeating the French. A turning point in the war was the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, which is celebrated today as the Cinco de Mayo in Mexico and among many Texans. The only full-blooded native to serve as President of Mexico, Juarez served five terms. He is considered a national hero in Mexico.

Juárez today:
Today’s Mexicans view Juárez much like some Americans see Abraham Lincoln: he was a firm leader when his nation needed one, who took a side in a social issue that drove his nation to war. There is a city (Ciudad Juárez) named after him, as well as countless streets, schools, businesses, etc. He is held in particularly high regard by Mexico’s considerable indigenous population, who rightly view him as a trailblazer in native rights and justice.

EMMA GELDERS STERNE, a former teacher and editor, has written more than twenty books in the past forty years, including Mary McLeod Bethune; I Have a Dream; His Was The Voice: The Life of W.E. B. Du Bois, and They Took Their Stand. The recipient of many awards over the years, she was honored by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, which established a children’s fund in her name.

Buy on Amazon if you want to keep all your ebooks inside Amazon.

cover showing Ms. Bethune leading a group of children

Mary McLeod Bethune

To read this ebook using Google Play Books on your tablet, or computer, or iBooks on an iPad, download this epub format.

To read on a device from Amazon, or on the Kindle app on your computer, here is the ebook in mobi format.

Directions on how to email this file to your device are here.
To add this mobi file to your Kindle for PC software to read the chapters on your computer, see instructions at http://tinyurl.com/y8gsazq.

The Kindle Personal Document Service allows teachers, or librarians to send a mobi file to up to 15 student Kindle email addresses at a time.

This is the challenging and inspired true story of a little girl who was determined to learn to read, and who went on to be a teacher, the founder of a college, an adviser to statesmen, and a great humanitarian. Mary McLeod Bethune was the fifteenth child of hardworking and god fearing parents. She was the first of their children to be born free. Her ancestry was wholly of African origin, a point of pride throughout her life.

Mrs. Bethune worked untiringly to restore—through education—her people’s faith in the magnificent heritage that is rightfully theirs. During the many years of and tribulation, she refused to give up her fondest dream—her own school for Negro children. And, as a shining monument to her hard work and faith, she has given to black youth the thriving institution of Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida.

So Big by Edna Ferber

Here is the epub format:


Here is the mobi format for Amazon devices:
Winner of the 1924 Pulitzer Prize, So Big is widely regarded as Edna Ferber’s crowning achievement. A rollicking panorama of Chicago’s high and low life, this stunning novel follows the travails of gambler’s daughter Selina Peake DeJong as she struggles to maintain her dignity, her family, and her sanity in the face of monumental challenges. This is the stunning and unforgettable “novel to read and to remember” by an author who “critics of the 1920s and 1930s did not hesitate to call the greatest American woman novelist of her day” (New York Times).

So Big is a brilliant literary masterwork from one of the twentieth century’s most accomplished and admired writers, and still resonates today with its unflinching views of poverty, sexism, and the drive for success.