I know that new technology can often be a source of anxiety for parents. You want to make sure that your child is engaging constructively with the media they consume, but it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff so to speak.
Screen time can be a touchy subject for many families, but I feel we can all agree that screens offer an opportunity to make reading a more significant part of your child’s life (you are reading this on a screen, after all).
Educational reading apps can engage kids in fun and interesting games which just so happen to be hammering home the fundamentals of fluency and reading comprehension.
With that in mind, I have compiled a list of my seven favorite reading apps for kids. Check out the list, and choose which one sounds right for your family.
LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary
How many of us grew up watching Reading Rainbow? How many of us cultivated our own love of reading by watching LeVar Burton walk us through gripping stories and beautiful illustrations? I am happy to say that the Skybrary app captures that same feeling of adventure and discovery that we remember, and brings it to a new generation.
In this app, kids have the opportunity to choose books which interest them and build their own library. Depending on their skill level, these books can be fully narrated, or set only to narrate tricky words which your child clicks on. It’s a wonderful app for bridging the gap between very early readers, and older kids who have had more practice.
Hopefully, you have a library card. If not, that’s something you can fix in about 20 minutes. Getting a card at your local library also gives you access to apps like Hoopla or Overdrive (depending on what your library uses).
These apps allow your child to browse and borrow from among hundreds of age-appropriate e-books and audiobooks. The wide selection helps keep kids interested, especially when they can focus in on books or topics they enjoy.
Best of all? Your library can help you get this app set up. Just bring your tablet or phone the next time you visit and ask someone at the front desk for help.
This app is aimed at younger children, and its goal is to introduce them to sight words. It does so in the most adorable way. Fun little “monsters” march across the screen, presenting your child with new words to try.
Before you know it, they will be stringing together longer and more complex sentences, and eventually spinning off to read on their own. Don’t be surprised if you find them curled up in bed, or perhaps hanging out in their play teepee, reading more challenging books on their own.
When browsing around for the best reading apps, you are probably going to run across Homer on each and every list. There’s a reason for that: it really works.
This app is often recommended by educators, and you may even see it being used in some of your children’s classrooms. Homer meets children where they are in terms of reading skill and is appropriate for kids as young as two years old.
It begins with fundamentals such as letter recognition, then moves on to concepts like rhyming and sounding out words. It actually grows with your child, improving their reading ability all along the way.
You do need to pay for this app, but they offer a free trial. So you can decide if it’s right for your child before spending anything.
Starfall Learn to Read
The Starfall app is part of the free education platform which has been on the web since 2002 (and is still available as a desktop site). Starfall is a nonprofit dedicated to offering educational alternatives to other types of children’s entertainment.
The Learn to Read app introduces children to a variety of different games which help teach the fundamentals of phonics such as vowel sounds and consonant blends. Kids can move up in difficulty as they master each piece of the program. This app is appropriate for kids from approximately 3 to 7 years old.
You may be familiar with uKloo as a board game. The uKloo app works on much the same premise: your child will be presented with a seek and find game. They will be given short, simple sentences as clues which direct them where to look.
If a child gets stuck on a particular word, there are picture clues which help them make the connection between the word in the object. The more they read, the more objects they find, and the more they are rewarded in the game.
Your child will be picking up reading skills without even realizing!
This is my “out there” suggestion for the list. Technically speaking, Scribblenauts Unlimited is not marketed as educational software, but rather as a straight-ahead video game.
However, I beg to differ.
This game works by presenting a stick figure with a challenge it needs to overcome, and your child is asked to write down a word which might help the stick figure reach its goal. So, maybe they want to type in the word “LADDER” to climb over something, or “WATER” to put out a fire.
Whatever they choose to write, it immediately appears on the screen – the number of pre-rendered objects is awe-inspiring. Here’s the best part: your child is rewarded for attempting to spell the word correctly.
If they were to type “LATER” when they meant “LADDER,” they will be presented with a “Did you mean…?” screen with a list of similar words.
In other words, they are rewarded for spelling things right, they are helped along when they spell things wrong, but either way, they must try to spell something to progress in the game. See? 100% educational.
So, what are your favorite reading apps? Do you have any that I didn’t mention on the list?
Let’s help each other out and keep the recommendations going. The more educational tools parents have at their disposal, the better.