Read-alouds are a great way to add variety to your children’s reading experiences. It should certainly never replace the written word, nor should it replace parents’ practice of reading aloud- nevertheless, it doesn’t hurt to use a digital read-aloud to complement traditional reading practices. Audio and video-books are a good way to introduce a child to reading – especially children who are not old enough to read the written word. (Read alouds also build a lasting relationship with books for the visually impaired)
From an Indian perspective, digital read-alouds link children to their regional languages through memorable stories that they love. Here is a list of 10 free books for children with a Creative Commons license that have been converted into free audio or video books, in a variety of regional languages. Sit back with your little ones and enjoy!
1) Turtle’s Flute
Watch this Brazilian folktale come to life in this narration. A man is enchanted by the melodies this turtle produces on its flute. So he decided to forcefully cage this poor turtle and take it home to make money from his music. Listen and read along to find out what happens to our musical turtle.
Follow-up activity: Find out what other kinds of music animals make. Bird songs, trunk calls, buzzing bees- see if you can mimic them!
2) The Whispering Palms
A beautifully illustrated story about how a little girl comes up with sustainable solutions to live in harmony with nature. She even inspires her parents to take up livelihoods that do not siphon away too many natural resources, but instead only uses what nature is ready to give. This story is by Deepa Gangwani and Tina Suchanek.
Follow-up Activity: Encourage your little ones to come up with similar eco-friendly solutions to daily activities
3) Takloo, The Little Salt Seller
Available in: Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, English, Hindi
A story that is rich in descriptions, this audio experience also has visual and tactile elements to engage the mind of younger readers- born out of their own imaginations stimulated by the words and the nuances of voice-modulated narration. It is written by Radhika Bapat and narrated by Radio Mirchi.
Follow-up Activity: Make your own little lemonade stand to earn some money to fill up your piggy bank.
4) Samira’s Awful Lunch
This audiobook is a creative take on the “be grateful for what you have” life lesson. Authored by Bharati Jagannathan and narrated by Radio Mirchi, this is a very relatable story for kids who complain about their lunches. The story also takes them through interesting conversations with other animals about the lunches that they eat.
Follow-up activity: Ask your child to observe what else in nature is lunch for insects, birds, and small animals.
5) My Garden
Available in: English
This is a bright, vibrant and colourful video that builds a strong appreciation for nature just by encouraging children to observe what goes on in the green spaces surrounding them. The story (written by Sigrun Srivastava and narrated by Sweta Daga) is followed by a real-life “field trip” of sorts to a kitchen garden- a way to translate and apply messages from fiction into reality.
Follow-up activity: Plant one vegetable yielding plant in your terrace/balcony/garden and care for it everyday.
6) Muchkund’s Sweet Tooth
Available in: Hindi only (listen here)
What do bears, bees and blossoms have to do with a little boy’s craving for sweets? Listen to this fun story by Madhav Gadgil about Muchkund and his interaction with the building blocks of the natural world.
Follow-up activity: Pick any one scene from the story, and draw it out on paper.
7) Vayu the Wind
Available in: English, Marathi (see below)
Cannot be seen. Cannot be heard. Does all the work. Without a word. Who can it be?
This simple story written by Madhuri Pai and narrated by Shilpa B. Desai is a lesson to appreciate the things that are not in the spotlight, but which are important nevertheless.
Follow-up Activity: Encourage your tiny tot to come up with other examples of unseen and unsung heroes. Find a way to thank these people by making colourful greeting cards so that they feel appreciated.
8) Viku and the Elephant
Available in: English only
Debu Majumdar beautifully sets the context of how human-elephant understanding and co-existence is essential for the existence of both species. He simply and delicately puts forth this lesson in the form of this endearing tale from the Indian jungles.
Follow-up activity: Continue the elephant reading experience by picking out books from this list of jumbo tales.
9) Too Much Noise
Available in: English ( (see below), Hindi, Marathi, Tamil
This is the story of Sringeri Srinivas who is irritated by all the noise on the highway on the way of the cattle fair. Written by Noni and narrated by Radio Mirchi, this story is about how he finds a way to cope with all the loud noise.
Follow-up activity: Bring about a discussion about the difference between sound and noise. Help them come up with a list of things they hear everyday and determine what is noise and what is sound.
10) Fun Ways to Count (Chalo Chale!)
Available in: Hindi
A story that teaches kids about different ways to travel, while at the same time helping them to count! This story is narrated by Sweta Daga, and written by Antara Mohan. At the end of the reading, Daga takes us into Indian roads to see what vehicles we can spot!
Follow-up Activity: Next time you take a trip by car, keep your children engaged by assigning each of them one type of transport: for eg, the bus. They have to count how many times they see this type of transport throughout the journey. Are there more cars than buses on the roads?
Also check out our other book lists compiled by us just for children: 50 Indian books every parent must read to their child, and 25 regional language books for kids.