For many single parents, money is often an issue. Maybe your ex isn’t paying the child support that they were ordered to pay, or your rent’s gone up but your pay hasn’t, or you were out of the workforce for years and now that you’ve returned, you’re basically starting over, both skills- and salary-wise.
Regardless of the reasons, concern over money and making sure you spend it wisely is often at the top of your mind. The desire to spend wisely has you always looking for ways to save money – and spending anywhere from $50-150 or more on a device to read ebooks might seem like an extravagance you can’t afford.
I’d like to argue that, and explain why it just might be worth spending that money after all.
First, I will admit that the cost of an ereader can be rather expensive upfront. Particularly if you have more than one child, and plan to buy them for all of the kids (and you should probably get one for yourself, too, if you’re getting them for the kids). The thought of shelling out all that money at once can be a little scary.
So the first thing I’ll say is that it doesn’t have to be immediate. If you can’t afford to buy them right now, save up. A few bucks every week until you have the money to get them will work just as well – it’s better than going hungry to get them.
Setting aside the upfront expense, purchasing an ereader can be a huge benefit to your homeschool. Let me explain.
- Ebooks are usually cheaper than regular books. How much money you’ll save on ebooks depends on the author and the publisher, but you can usually save at least $2-3, if not $5 or more. Independent authors who publish their own work are usually the ones with the biggest savings (for example, my book The Secrets He Kept is $3.99 on Kindle, but $13.99 for paperback.) Paperbacks and hardbacks have higher expenses incurred in their production, such as formatting, cover art, paper, printing, etc. , where ebooks are mostly just formatting and cover art (it’s not quite that simple, of course). You’ll spend more upfront when you purchase the ereader, but over time as you save money on the expense of the books, you’ll not only make back what you spent, but save money.
- They’re incredible space savers. I have bookcases that holds probably 300-400 books each (assuming I cram each shelf top to bottom, front to back), and the cases are about 6 feet tall, and roughly 3 feet wide. That’s a lot of wall space! My Kindle, on the other hand, currently holds nearly 400 books and sits on top of the end table next to my chair, on my nightstand, and fits in the small front pocket of my purse. I can take my Kindle to the movies, the park, or the beach – imagine trying to lug the big bookcase to those places! Now, granted, most of us won’t read 400 books in one trip to the beach. But how many times have you been on your way somewhere and wanted to read, but you were about to be finished with your current book and couldn’t decide what to read next? Imagine trying to take 3-4 of your “possibles” with you. With a Kindle, you can take all 400 books on it with you, and when you’re done with your current book, you pick another. And let’s face it, kids are especially prone to indecisiveness and changing their mind – so being able to select any of a number of books on their ereader is going to be a major benefit for them.
- Save money with the library. I’m not talking about your ereader’s library, but your local library. I live in a very rural area with a library that tends to be lacking at times, but they offer ebooks, so I’m sure yours will, too. Ebooks from the library saves you money in a few ways: you don’t have to buy the books, you don’t have to drive to the library to check them out, and you don’t have to worry about late fees for not returning them on time, as they are automatically removed from your device when your loan period is done. This can also help you out when your kids are clamoring to read a book that’s too expensive right now, or they want a whole series but you’re not confident they’ll read them all – check it out from the library (or check out the first book in the series) and see how it goes. You can always buy the book later if you need/want to, and if it turns out that they don’t go further than the first or second book in a series, you won’t be out the money spent on the whole thing. As a bonus, you could also get your kids their own library cards, which in my county, allows my kids to go online and check out their own ebooks, so they can pick their books, just like they would at the library, rather than having to go through me. And if, like me, you find that your local library is a bit lacking, here’s another tip: check out neighboring counties. Many times, they offer reciprocal cards to nearby county’s residents that are free and afford you the same benefits as a resident of that county, including access to their ebook collection. For me, one county is a bit too far for me to drive regularly, but because there’s a university, they have tons of ebooks, and a high checkout limit (100 items compared to just 2 ebooks in my local library), so they are worth the drive to go there once every two years to renew my card.
- Portability. I sort of touched on this above, when I mentioned how these devices are space savers. Unless you work from home, chances are, your kids spend at least some of their time at someone else’s house: a grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, neighbor, a daycare run in someone’s home. I’d also be willing to bet that at some point, they do some of their school stuff there – or you wish they could, anyway. If they don’t, maybe part of the reason they don’t is that you’re daunted at the thought of packing up all their textbooks, workbooks, notebooks, pencils, etc. to take them along. Not every textbook or workbook has an ebook version available, but sometimes they do. Whether it’s a component offered free when you bought the physical version, or you pay less to get the ebook version instead of the physical copy, any subjects that you can get ebooks for can be done anytime, anywhere. You can pack up a Kindle, a couple of notebooks, a few pencils, and potentially be good to go. And even if your kids don’t go to a sitter, perhaps because you work from home, this also gives you more flexibility to decide to do school at the park, or outside in the yard, or to go to the library or Starbucks. It’s far easier to tote an ereader filled with half a dozen textbooks than it is to tote a backpack filled with half a dozen textbooks – and that ease just might be what you need to get you out of the house now and then to do school.
- Read along with the kids. Reading together is a great habit to form. Whether it’s to read with your younger child to help them learn to read, or reading with your older child so you can then discuss the book together, it can be fun and a great way to connect. But when it comes to physical books, it can be difficult. While reading together with younger kids is still easy (you can cuddle and read, using your finger to follow along for them), if you want them to really learn to read, or if you’re reading along with an older kid, you’re stuck with a couple of choices: read aloud to them and they just listen (which can be hard if they have trouble paying attention, not to mention if they struggle with reading, they’re not really getting as much out of it), or buy multiple copies of the book, so you have one and they each have one. If the book is $10, that can add up fast, especially if you want to read as a whole family. That’s where an ereader can really shine. Most of them (I only have personal experience with a Kindle, so correct me if I’m wrong) share libraries, so if all your ereaders are registered to the same account, you can buy the ebook once and load it to all the devices. You save money, and you allow each reader to follow along as you read aloud.
- You can use them for just about every subject. There are ebooks available for just about every subject: math, science, social studies, history, art, music, language arts. Just as with any other books you’d look at, you’ll want to take some time to look at the first few pages, read reviews, etc., but you can find some great books to use. I’ve seen some parents complain that there are a lot of independent authors who publish their work without editing, providing a book that is filled with spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. While I, as an author, would never want to publish my book in that condition, I do utilize those books as a parent. I have my kids find the errors and correct them. It works better than giving them a worksheet full of sentences that are unconnected and out of context, and it makes me feel a little better about having given my money to an author who didn’t care enough about his/her work to ensure it was the best it could possibly be before it was published for the world to read. Some of my favorite (well written and usually correct) books include The Collected Works of Jules Verne, 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Math, Science Projects For Kids, The Complete Sherlock Holmes, 65 Short Mysteries You Solve With Science, and 65 MORE Short Mysteries You Solve With Science. (Of course, since I have a Kindle, I can only confirm that these were available on Amazon. I can’t be sure of their availability on other sites for other devices.)
- They can trick your nonreader into reading. Do you have a kid who claims to hate reading? I did, too. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: when I got them Kindles, my “I hate reading” kid turned into a reader pretty quickly. My theory is that it’s a couple of things: one is that it’s an electronic device, and let’s face it, kids are all about electronics these days. The other is that because it’s a device, and they can’t see how many pages they’ve read and how many are left to read in the same visual way they can with a book, they read more just because all there is is this one page. They simply don’t realize just how much they’re reading. Whether my theory is right or wrong, or if there’s another reason it works, all I know is it worked.
There are several options for reading devices. There’s the Amazon Kindle in its various incarnations, there’s the Kobo devices, and the Barnes & Noble Nook. You can also download apps to tablets such as your iPad that will allow you to read books from the various sites, even without owning one of their dedicated devices. Whether you should buy a dedicated ereader or a device that allows you to download an app for reading will depend on your intended purpose. If you want something solely for reading, go with a dedicated ereader – and a pretty basic one, no Kindle Fire, for example. Personally, for myself and my kids, we’ve gone with a Kindle Touch for me and original Kindles for the kids (and in fact, I only have a Touch because one of the kids broke his Kindle and Amazon said the only replacement at the time was the Touch, so I gave him my Kindle and took the Touch so there’d be no arguments between the kids). I prefer our Kindles to be specifically for reading, not for going online or anything else like that.
But you might want something that can do double duty, allowing your kids to read ebooks as well as go online, play educational games and write book reports. If that’s the case, then a Kindle Fire or a tablet with a downloaded app might be the better option.
Do your research before you buy. Ensure that the device you want to buy will do what you need/want it to do, including offering parental controls if you want them. If you’re concerned that it won’t live up to your expectations, consider purchasing just one for yourself to start with. Use it yourself and see how you like it. When I got my first Kindle, I was quite skeptical. I didn’t see how it could ever be better than a physical book. But once I got it, I was hooked. Lightweight, portable, with tons of storage space for my books, and plenty of ways to get free or inexpensive books, I tend to read far more on my Kindle than I do physical books these days. I still love my paperbacks, don’t get me wrong. But devices do have their advantages, and sometimes those advantages are well worth the cost.
Make sure you shop around, too. If you want a Kindle, check the price of the used ones first, and check out your local Staples or Office Depot and see what kind of deal you can get there. Check with friends and family – maybe someone’s upgraded recently and has an old one sitting around that they’d be willing to give you for free or at a steal. Compare prices on ebooks, too – you might decide that it’s more expensive to buy a specific ereader, but the books are such a good deal that it’s better to spend the extra money on the device to save more money on the books.
Ereaders can be a huge benefit to your homeschooling, as well as just your life in general, if your family is full of readers. If you’ve been on the fence because of the expense, take the plunge. I think you’ll find you’re glad you did it.