Best Reading Apps for Kids
Summer is nearly here! As parents, we all worry that much of the learning that has taken place over the last year will somehow dwindle during the long, lazy summer days. Aside from creating meaningful hands-on learning experiences for your child, you can also encourage a child to keep up their skills using technology during down time! I’ve compiled a list of my top 10 Reading Apps for Kids, broken down into four sections: Phonics and Decoding, Comprehension, Sight Words, and Readable Books.
Most of these apps are appropriate for beginning readers (or those learning how to read), but a few are still applicable for proficient readers as well (especially the apps focusing on comprehension).
Teach Your Child To Read
Oh, and by the way…this isn’t an app, but it is a great time to tell you about my eBook titled I Can Teach My Child to Read. Chances are if you are looking for reading apps for your kids, you may also be trying to teach him/her how to read! Consider this my shameless plug! :)
Okay, back to the apps: I have only included apps for Apple products, not because I am intentionally trying to leave Android or Kindle users out in the cold…but simply because they are the only apps that I personally have experience with and therefore the only ones that I feel I can honestly endorse. If you have a Kindle Fire or Android tablet or smart phone, you can always search for the apps listed below for your platform. They are often identical to the Apple versions. I am sorry in advance for any inconvenience this may cause you.
This post is not sponsored in any way (although it does include my affiliate links). I bought each app with my own money and all opinions are based on my personal experience with each app. I have spent many hours (and more money than I typically spend on apps in an entire year) trying to find the best reading apps for young readers. I hope that you find this list to be beneficial to you and your family!
Reading Apps For Kids That Target Phonics and Decoding:
(compatible with iPhone and iPad- $2.99, or get the HD iPad version here– $3.99)
I really love this app. It is totally customizable for the age and ability of your child from 3 years only (and letter/sound correspondence) to 5+ years and decoding. On the five-year old section, your child can record his/her voice while decoding a simple 3-letter word. Next, they trace all of the letters in the word as well, which reinforces letter formation. Finally, a child can record him/herself reading a simple sentence!
If you buy one app off this list, this should be it!
(designed for both iPhone and iPad- $2.99)
This app is great for teaching letter SOUNDS (which is WAY more important than learning their names). It also adds a cognitive component of mini-crossword puzzles as well as consonant blends and digraphs (although they aren’t labeled as such).
This app is completely customizable and includes a special section for parents. I was initially hesitant about the crossword component of this app (because I don’t want to confuse a child that he/she could be reading a word up –> down instead of left –> right), but this doesn’t seem to be a problem.
(designed for both iPhone and iPad- $2.99)
Marbleminds Phonics is a relatively simple app that encourages phonics skills while also rewarding the user with marbles for completing the tasks.
This app includes a memory game, an onset game (where a child has to choose the sound/letter that goes at the beginning of the picture represented), and a “sounds like” section where a sound is spoken aloud and the child must choose the corresponding letter.
I was a little disappointed that this app didn’t include a rhyming component or any word families.
Reading Apps that Target Comprehension Strategies:
Appropriate for children who are already reading, this reading app helps a child develop critical thinking skills and comprehension. It also encourages abstract thinking and inferring, a difficult skill to reinforce at such a young age.
There are two main issues with this app that almost made me not recommend it:
- It is pretty pricey and might be the most expensive app I have purchased, and
- Your child must be a relatively proficient reader because he/she has to read the “answers” him/herself.
I wish there was an option to have the answers to the questions read by the app itself. It is one of the only apps I have found that focuses on inferring and abstract thinking, so it managed to make it on the list despite its shortcomings.
(Designed for both iPhone and iPad-$2.99)
Sequencing, or being able to recall the events of a story in order, is an important component of reading comprehension and cognitive development. This app is a sequencing game, appropriate for Pre-K through 1st grade. Your child will put a series of pictures in order. Once they have been placed in order correctly, your child can then watch a very short animation watching the sequence uninterrupted.
This app is also widely used by Speech Pathologists as they work with children who are receiving speech services.
The only downfall to this app is that some of the scenarios (like hitting a baseball, for example) require real-world experience to understand the sequence.
This app, created in the UK, lets your child create their own story by choosing one of three heroes, story lines, and endings (happy, sad, or funny). Our boys are fascinated with this app and love making different stories with their very own selections.
The stories themselves are very short and simple (which is one of the only negatives), but I love it because it shows children how easy it is to make up a story…and I happen to adore the British accent. :)
(iPad only or get the version compatible with iPhones and iPod Touch here-$2.99)
Unlike most sight word apps, this one goes beyond the basic flashcard method and makes learning sight words a little bit more interactive and fun. There are three levels based upon a child’s ability (turtle, chicken, and penguin levels…according to the size of their eggs).
A sight word is shown (and said aloud) and the child must then crack the egg with the same word on it (by touching it). Other random words, animals, and objects also fly through the air and will be splatted if you touch them and they aren’t the selected sight word.
Not sure you want to purchase this app? Try the free version first.
Readable Book Apps:
This is basically an electronic version of the beloved classic by Dr. Seuss. There are three variations to this app: Read to Me, Read by Myself, or Auto Play. There is also a voice recording option where your child can read it aloud and record his/her voice (or a parent can record also).
There are several other Dr. Seuss books available as apps: Mr. Brown Can Moo Can You?, Yertle the Turtle, and And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street. There is also a collection of 5 stories (including The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The FOOT Book, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? and Fox In Socks) all in one app for $14.99.
9. BOB Books
BOB books are famously popular with parents of beginning readers. I personally have a love/not-so-much love relationship with the BOB books brand (as I’ve shared before). I think they can be very beneficial for helping children learn to decode, but the illustrations in the paper books are pretty boring.
The app adds a bit more interaction, which makes it more appealing (in my humble opinion). You can get BOB books for free to try it out before you pay the full price for the app. You can also buy Bob Books #2 (HD for the iPad or for the iPhone/iPod Touch)
10. Subscription-Based Programs:
Farfaria is basically like a digital library of books. The app is free to download and you can get a trial that allows you to read 1 book per day for free, but beyond that you will have to subscribe (similar to a service like Netflix but for eBooks). There seems to be a fairly decent amount of books available, although I didn’t see very many familiar book titles.
You can also choose books based on your child’s reading level. The app allows the book to be read aloud, auto play, or for your child to read it to him/herself.
Reading Rainbow has a similar subscription service, although it is quite a bit more expensive ($9.99 per month as opposed to $3.99 per month). You can receive a significant discount if you prepay for 6 months ($29.99).
This service has over 200 books, narrated by the infamous Lamar, with new books being added weekly.
Free Reading Apps For Kids:
Read Me Stories: This FREE app features a new book every day!
iDiary for Kids Lite: Although this isn’t technically a “reading” app, reading and writing go hand-in-hand and this is a great diary option for young writers.
Reading Eggs Sight Words (free version): Similar to the Paid Version, but with some restrictions
Reading Apps For Kids (from my Facebook friends):
Monkey Word School Adventure ($1.99)
Meet the Sight Words ($0.99)
Starfall Learn to Read ($2.99)
Word World ($1.99)
More Great Reading Resources For Kids:
Be sure and check out my favorite reading apps for preschoolers and toddlers as well!
A FINAL WORD: Please remember that iPhones and iPads are just like computers–meaning that you must be vigilant about ensuring your child isn’t exposed to any inappropriate content. SecureMama shares a step-by-step guide for ways to secure your iPhone or iPad.
This post was first published May 2013. Updated 2018.