Twas Night Before Christmas pg17135.cover.mediumMy Grade 3/4 kids had their third e-book lesson. I took advantage of their fascination with Project Gutenberg and let them explore that site further. I showed them how to navigate to it on the class iPads, then find the kids bookshelf, browse, and download an e-pub book into iBooks to read.

As is often the case in classroom situations, it was a mixed bag. A few of them frittered away most of the time clicking around and dealing with technical difficulties such as an iPad smartcover that would not stay put. The student in question resisted my offer to remove the cover altogether, and spend a good ten minutes fiddling with it. Battery/memory issues arose on another child’s iPad. A few kids chose to follow the lead of one student, who found something she liked and turned the others onto it.

The book in question was The Night Before Christmas, by Clement Clarke Moore. She found it on the Christmas bookshelf, loaded it into iBooks with no difficulty, and was quickly absorbed. Several times, I heard her exclaim, ‘I am reading this whole book!’ and ‘this book is really good!’ to her friends. Within a few minutes, several other kids were reading it.

It was hilarious to watch them go at this. One of the other kids got the book all loaded, then because annoyed by the Project Gutenberg front matter. ‘Oh my gosh, does this book ever start?’ she asked her friend. ‘Yes,’ my little leader explained. ‘But you have to flick with your finger a bunch of times first to skip that stuff.’

And then a light-bulb moment came. One of the students said she loved the book so much, she wanted to have a paper copy. I showed her the Amazon listings for picture book editions and she was dissatisfied. One of them had illustrations where all the people were mice. It just wasn’t the same. ‘I want this book,’ she specified. ‘This exact one. If only there was a way we could take this e-book and make it, like, on paper somehow.’

There was, of course. We could print it. Their eyes bugged out. Really? We can do that? I triumphantly explained that the Project Gutenberg legalese, which they all blithely flicked through without a glance, specified that this book was in the public domain and was free for anyone to use, however they wanted it. I wasn’t going to print out a hundred pages of a novel for them, but I certainly thought we could manage a 15-page picture book.

When our class ended, I headed to the computer lab, copied the HTML version into Word, did a few font adjustments and prettied it up a little, and then ten minutes later, it was done. I had a class set of these after just a few minutes with a photocopier and stapler.

Next steps: Time to start putting together our own little eBook! Try printing a paper book from a commercial source like Amazon!

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. Quote: ” One of the other kids got the book all loaded, then because annoyed by the Project Gutenberg front matter….”

    I wonder who told PG to do that. It’s probably good to put a copyright notice (or in this case a non-copyright one) there. But they should put all that legal-beagle stuff at the end.

    You might also show them how they could get audiobooks versions from Librivox or Loyal Books. Reading in a car can be tiring, what with the light changing and the car bouncing, but listening is easy. I listen to long series of books when I was making a 2012 move 2900 miles across the country. It made tolerable those long hours driving in August in an un-air-conditioned car that, pulling a trailer, rarely got above 50 MPH.

    They might even persuade their parents to play audiobooks on trips to keep them occupied. It’s a good way to listen to the childhood classics. Beats what I did as a kid, counting cows on the left and right.

  2. One suggestion for those third and fourth graders you teach.

    Check out Anne of Green Gables from Librivox or Loyal Books. I’ve only just started it, but it should be great for kids that age. Worried that they would soon be too old to keep up their farm, a brother/sister spinster pair living on a Canadian island ask, in a more innocent age, for a friend going the the Canadian mainland to bring back an orphan boy about ten to twelve years old.

    Giving them what the needed rather than what they wanted, she returns with a bright, articulate girl of that age. The girl is delighted to get out of a drab orphanage into the countryside with a family of her own. At this point in the tale as a reader I’m left wondering whether the brother and sister will accept a girl when they wanted a boy.

    This book does what books for children need most to do. It teaches imagination and the importance of seeing life through the eyes of others. It’d be great for a discussion about how each of the main characters is feeling.

    Also, this book follows a new approach at Librivox. Different people provide the voices for different characters, with a narrator filling text where someone isn’t speaking. Audible might turn their nose up at that, but it actually works quite well.

    Putting myself back into my grade school classes, I’d have been delighted if each day including a single chapter from this book followed by a class discussion. Imagine how students would cope with questions about what life in an orphanage must have been like or what it would be like to agree to be adopted into a family sight unseen. Would you be afraid? This girl seems delighted.

  3. To be fair to Project Gutenberg, it’s less than a single page. A paragraph about it being public domain, and then information about the book itself. There are a lot of books currently published by Big Publishing Houses that have several pages of author blurbs, title page and copyright page before getting to the content.

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