I did it! An easy way to read picture books to grandkids on FaceTime, Skype.

Kids love to be read to but it took me a while — and a lot of fumbling around — to discover a great way to read books to my young grandchildren while we are using video chat — Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Portal, or Google Duo.

Here’s the method that’s works for me:

TIP: Don’t hold the book.

Instead, as shown above, lay the book on an ottoman (my favorite way), coffee table, or other table. Then hold the iPad or other device over the book with one hand. Your other hand is used for turning pages during your video chat. Looking on your tablet, you can see at a glance what the kids are seeing. If you lean a bit, even with your device over the book you can see the page itself so you can read the words to the kids.

TIP: Know where the camera is on your device.

Figure out where the camera is and practice holding it over a book. Move it around and up and down and what the screen to see how it changes.

TIP: Sometimes, show the whole page.

If what you’re reading about is the entire page, then as shown below, show the entire page to your grandchild as you’re reading that page.

TIP: Often, zero in on the artwork that shows what you’re reading about.

Book pages often show multiple things going on (photo below), for separate parts of the story. I move the iPad around and often move it closer to the page to capture the artwork for what I’m reading at the time.

reading a book via ipad

I listen to the words I’m saying … and show the part of the layout that applies to that section. In the photo above, at this time I’m only holding the iPad camera over the bottom of the right page because that’s the artwork for the words I was reading right then.

BTW, I also soon realized I did not need to show the printed words on a page while reading books. The little ones want to see pictures! Zeroing in on the artwork makes the book come alive more on their screen.

TIP: Practice!

Practice a bit with your device and a book before you start reading to your grandchild on Skpe or Face Time. But, really, kids are so forgiving of mistakes and awkwardness. You can easily try it out on them and they’ll see you get better and better. Soon they will be asking you to read to them!

Need some tips for putting picture books on reserve at your library? Click here.

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35 thoughts on “I did it! An easy way to read picture books to grandkids on FaceTime, Skype.”

  1. Oh this is smart! I tried to read my grandson books a few times by propping up my phone so he could see me holding the book and it never went well. I had to sit too far away from the screen and he couldn’t see or hear me well, he’d get bored and walk away!! I got discouraged and figured I could not read to him by iPhone. I tried this today and we read a whole book together and it was fun for both of us! Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Having to be isolated leant me today to start daily FaceTime story time with my granddaughter, and I am using an easel. I agree with the idea of not showing the words, but to show the illustrations and zoom in for effect! Also, a great time to incorporate different voices for the characters in story to make it more engaging.

    Reply
  3. Thanks for your tips on using Skype to read to children. Just been investigating ways to share the same book with my five year old Grandson. He’s just started school and was doing really well and now at home dud to the coronavirus. Wondering we either buy the same book to share via skype or my daughter scans some of his in and emails them to me (I don’t gave many left as I’ve given most of them to her). Or may investigate sharing via kindle if this can be done? Any suggestions gratefully received. Suex

    Reply
    • Hi, Sue. Here’s some input from me and my tech hubby. If you don’t have a physical book to read to your grandson, we have two possibilities but both require that you have a pair of devices to use.
      FIRST SUGGESTION: If you have a home computer with monitor and if your library system has ebooks available, “check out” an ebook and then when you’re Skyping, hold your Skype device (maybe you use a phone or iPad) up to your monitor and read the book to him. We show our grandkids things on our home computer all the time, like photos and YouTube videos and it’s pretty effortless.
      SECOND SUGGESTION: You could get books on the device you use for Kindle. Then use your phone to Skype, positioning the phone to show what’s on your Kindle screen.
      Hope this helps!

      Reply
  4. Jane, I would love to share your advice on my Facebook page. I am a Medicare Agent, I work with Seniors. I would love to share your advice and tips with them. I see that you don’t have links to FB or other social media platforms. Any ideas or advice?

    Thank you for these resources!

    Reply
  5. Thank you so much for this tutorial! I had no idea how I was going to do this so now I know. We can’t see our Grandkids right now , so I thought I would do this as I usually read to them a lot.
    Your help is much appreciated!

    Reply
  6. I’m trying to read a downloaded book that is on my ipad as I skype with grands. Split screen? I’m pretty close to figuring this out, but love some help..

    Reply
    • Hi, Janet,
      I tried this with a downloaded book from the library and it worked — but I needed 2 devices! What I did was have the grandkids on Facetime on my iPad, then I flipped the camera and held my iPad up to our home computer which had the book on it. I started to read as I held the iPad up. Pushing buttons to “turn” the pages takes some effort but it worked. I think I’ll get better at it the more I try. I hope this helped. If you find a better way, let us all know!

      Reply
    • Julie, your device should have 2 cameras built-in — and you can “flip” so the camera picks up what is being seen on the other side of the device. On most devices, you tap the screen and look for a word that indicates “flip” or maybe a round symbol with back and forth arrows. You tap that button or symbol. It really is easy once you know where the “flip” indicator is. Ask your device provider or Google “How to flip cameras.” I hope this helped!

      Reply
  7. I have twin great-granddaughters who are aged two and a half years, and I am delighted to have found your site which has given me ideas as to how I can read to them now that we are in lockdown and cannot see them in the flesh. I do not have any suitable books and would welcome suggestions as to what might work well. I know that they both love dinosaurs. Any suggestions and tips will be most welcome.

    Reply
    • Twin granddaughters sound such fun — and a challenge, too. I’m so glad my blog is helpful, Audrey, and thank you for your nice words. Dinosaur books I think are nice include The Berenstain Bears Dinosaur Dig
      We also like the many picture books by this pair: Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.
      Also, this link will show you the picture books that Amazon has specifically about dinosaur books for kids ages 2-4. I think Amazon sorting by age group is very helpful!
      Thanks again, Audrey.

      Reply
    • That’s a great idea, Brian. You could have someone record a video of you reading a book. Show you at the beginning and the end .. and for the reading itself, show the pages of the book as you read. Just turn the pages naturally. The drawback to that idea is if you send the video electronically to the parents, they have to be involved when the child wants to watch the video.
      My husband and I recorded a Hallmark book and gave it to our grandchild. We each did some of the reading! I checked Hallmark’s website and they still make recordable books for grandparents. Here’s a link
      I also checked Amazon and they have a cute recordable book. Here’s that link .

      Reply
      • Thanks for these ideas and links. I was hoping for some current technologies/apps to be able to record me reading a book and then allow my grandkids to view it at their leisure. I think one can set up a private youtube page and post a recording their where only specific persons can view it. Need to find a technology to record me reading a book off the shelf by using my laptop. Thanks,

        Reply
    • I’ve been reading to my 3-year-old granddaughter via Skype, but I just realized I could do it via Zoom and record it, so she would be on the recording too. (She loves seeing herself. Sometimes we just take a tour through my photo album. She likes seeing pictures of herself as a baby.)

      I don’t know if you can record with the free Zoom account, though. The paid one, which I have because I’ve been using Zoom so much, is only $15/month. You can record to your own computer or you can record to Zoom’s online storage.

      Reply
      • This is terrific news about using Zoom. I always say there’s nothing a 3-year old likes better than photos of themselves — unless it’s a video! Thanks for the info, Mollyavalon. I’m going to try this.

        Reply
  8. When I Skype with my grandkids I find a book online (https://www.freechildrenstories.com/age-5-8-1) is a good one where you can select the age group of your child/grandchild). Then while I am starting the Skype session I open up another tab and go to freechildrenstories.com. You can see the variious books they have to read. So then I click on the Skype window making it cover the book screen. Then I minimize it, dragging it sideways till it reaches its smallest point. At this stage I can now see my grandchildren, myself and the book page, but my grandchildren cannot see the book page. So on the Skype window I find and select ‘share screen’. Voila!! My grandchildren can now see my screen and the selection of books. They can now choose which book they want me to read. I click on the book and it maximizes. The children can even see my cursor so they can follow what I read as I move the cursor from word to word. Clever aren’t I huh? Ok, ok, I admit it – my son taught me all of this. hehehe

    Reply
    • Gail, you’re great! Thanks to you genius son — and thoughtful you so much for sharing this idea, and giving us the details we need.

      Reply
  9. So very helpful reading what others have done and attempted. After trying App Caribu and acknowledging what a great concept it is, but reading the many comments of poor outcomes and despairing of the diet of Barbie and Thomas books I am delighted to find these alternatives.
    Thank you all
    Kerry, Australia

    Reply
    • Hello, Australia! You’re my first correspondence from your great land. Thanks, Kerry, for your nice words. I’m glad you found options beyond Barbie and Thomas!

      Reply
  10. Hi,
    We have been using Zoom, with an ebook or pdf on screen share. However there are a limited selection of free pdfs.
    Fenwick Northumberland

    Reply
  11. Hello Jane! I was thrilled to find you when I Googled, “How to read books to your grand child on FaceTime”. My husband and I moved to the mainland after living in Honolulu for 2.5 years. We miss our granddaughter so much. Went to the library every week and since we moved, it’s been months since we’ve had that pleasure. Before reading your article, I tried to hold a library book backwards to me but facing the iPad so my granddaughter could see. Your way is much easier and we’ll be FaceTiming in a few minutes. Can’t wait to try it out! Thank you so much for posting your tips!

    Reply
    • Sylvie, you made my day. Really! Thank you for your kind words and taking the time to write.

      I trust my method will work for you, and you’ll find you get better and better as you keep trying. Reading is so much fun!

      Wish I had a solution for the “missing.” It does help me to know others understand.

      Jane

      Reply
  12. Not a grandparent yet, but I teach a college course on children’s literature, which will be offered remotely this Fall. I found this post while looking for strategies to make videos of picture books for my students. Thank you!

    Reply
    • You’re welcome, Miriam.
      When I was in college, my classmates studying to be teachers called this course “Kiddie Lit.” It was always their favorite course and now I imagine most of them are grandmas reading to their grandkids.
      Good luck with your course!

      Reply

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