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Lauren B. Stevens
Lauren B. Stevens is a freelance writer and influential blogger. She is passionate about social media and literature.
July 24, 2012Net Nanny for Android 2.0
Feb 28, 2017
I was a voracious reader as a child, devouring books at unprecedented speeds; I read so much that I quickly ran out of age appropriate books in our little base library in England in the 1980s.
I remember reading Sweet Valley High books in second or third grade, having absolutely no clue about many of the issues the Wakefield twins tackled during their high school days. Our children have a much better selection of books available to them today, and technology has progressed significantly from the electronic Speak & Spell “computer” of the 80s.
Numerous studies have shown that reading to children from an early age is one of the cornerstones to raising a reader, and asking questions while reading together further strengthen comprehension skills, more importantly, the Get Caught Reading campaign serves as a reminder to everyone, especially parents, how important it is for children to see adults reading.
But what about those in-between times? You know, those times when you’re engaged in another activity, be it a chore or otherwise, and are unable to sit with your child and read; these are the times when reading apps can help inspire the joy of reading in your child.
As always, it can be difficult to navigate the plethora of reading-related apps on the market, so we’re here to help! We’ve curated nine tried and true apps, based on the recommendations of fellow parents and teachers, to help you raise a reader.
The following is for Emergent Readers
$3.99The first television my son watched was PBS Kids, and SUPER WHY quickly became a favorite show -- I was amazed by just how much my son learned from watching (he had sight words at 18 months old). PBS has created an app with this beloved character, and it is perfect for toddlers beginning to learn their alphabet and pick up sight words.
Covering the basics -- phonics, letter recognition/ alphabet, letter tracing, letter music videos -- children collect stickers as they play. With no in-app purchases, this app is a win-win for little ones.
Educational value: 4 out of 5; majority of parents report reading basics improved after their child used this appEase of play: 4 out of 5Consumerism: 3 out of 5; app must be purchased, but does not feature in-app purchases
$2.99Dr. Seuss is synonymous with learning to read, so it makes sense that they’ve created an app that aligns with his ABC book. This app is for younger children working on learning letters, letter cases and just beginning to accumulate sight words. Children can read along with highlighted narration, or read the book independently.
Educational value: 3 out of 5; majority of parents report fundamentals improved after their child used this app; app is geared towards younger childrenEase of play: 4 out of 5Consumerism: 3 out of 5; app must be purchased, but does not feature in-app purchases
$7.95/ monthAfter seeing nothing but positive reviews, I took the plunge and purchased a year subscription (without a 30-day trial) for my son when he was three. ABCmouse features curriculum for children ages 2-7, but you are the best gauge of their readiness (my son likely would not have stuck with it at two years old).
While I love that I have the option to set the curriculum for my son, I let him work at his own pace. The best part? My son doesn’t realize how many skills he’s acquiring through playing because he has a ton of fun with it! ABCmouse isn’t just for reading, though, children can learn foundational math and science concepts as well.
Children earn tickets for completing lessons, redeemable at one of the “stores” within the game -- my son “spends” his tickets on outfitting his virtual aquarium. While the app does not have external links or in-app purchases, many parents report frustration with the company’s auto-renewal process.
Educational value: 5 out of 5; majority of parents report fundamentals improved after their child used this app, as well as a high level of engagementEase of play: 5 out of 5; most children do not need direction to figure out activitiesConsumerism: 1 out of 5; app must be purchased; many parents report issues with auto-renewal/cancellation process
The following is for Early Readers
$5.00Using Montessori-style techniques, Alpha Writer bridges the gap for beginning readers. Phonetics, word sounds, spelling, and beginning writing are all skills practiced with the Alpha Writer app.
Children can drag letters to form words, with each of the letter sounds being sounded-out for them, teaching children letter combination sounds. As your child progresses, they will be able to build storyboards with words and objects they’ve learned.
You’ll want to work through Alpha Writer with your child to get the most from it, and will be happy to know that this app features no external links or in-app purchases.
Educational value: 5 out of 5; majority of parents report fundamentals improved after their child used this appEase of play: 3 out of 5; children will get the most out of this app with adult guidanceConsumerism: 3 out of 5; app must be purchased, but does not feature in-app purchases
The following is for Transitional & Fluent Readers
Free, but books must be purchasedIf your child is truly a child of the tech age, as most are these days, you don’t have to worry that they’ll miss out on reading with TouchyBooks. A virtual library and e-book store for beginning and fluent readers, TouchyBooks offers a range of books. Two free books come with the app download, but additional books must be purchased and books are available in 6 languages.
What makes TouchyBooks great for early readers is the interactive aspect the books offered -- each book page features elements that play music and sounds when touched. TouchyBooks also offer the option to have books read aloud, or have readers read to themselves.
Educational value: 4 out of 5; parents like the range of books offered, tailored to varying interestsEase of play: 4 out of 5; the books are interactiveConsumerism: 3 out of 5; the app is free, but books must be purchased after the free offer
5 free books and then $4.99/ month Reading Club subscriptionAnother virtual library, MeeGenius! features a large selection -- 400+ -- of books in an array of fiction and nonfiction genres. For a monthly subscription fee, children can select books to read along with -- each book features highlighted text with audio narration for children to follow; readers can also opt to turn off narration.
Perfect for slightly older readers, MeeGenius! books do not have an interactive element included, apart from colorful illustrations, text and audio narration.
Free, but features in-app purchasesIn another lifetime, I taught 12th grade English for a year. At the start of the year, I was in a conference with parents of a student who had not yet passed his English competency exam and was at risk of not graduating.
The parents were at a loss because their son hated reading. My suggestion? To have him read the newspaper they received daily, and then have a discussion about some of the stories (testing his comprehension); not every person enjoys literature, fiction or non, and that’s okay.
News-O-Matic delivers daily news stories, ranging from current events to entertainment. The app even deals out a dose of geography by showing where the news event occurred, in relation to your location (if you allow your child to enable location-tracking). News-O-Matic also offers audible narration for children at differing reading levels and abilities.
Parents should note that all news articles are reviewed by a child psychologist, prior to publication, to ensure that content is appropriate for younger readers.
Educational value: 5 out of 5; children have access to current events at age-appropriate reading levelsEase of play: 3 out of 5Consumerism: 2 out of 5; this app features in-app purchases
The following is for Any Stage Readers
Free, but books must be purchased after free trialThis past summer, my son and I downloaded and listened to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone -- perfectly timed for our 13+ hour round-trip. At one point, my little guy asked to remain in the car to finish a chapter, which says a lot! But, there’s something about being read to that draws children in, as even my 12th-grade students were more engaged in class reading when I played audio narration.
Because each book is purchased individually, or offered with a monthly subscription, you’ll want to supervise downloads because Audible also features adult titles. Audible isn’t just for road trips, however, as the read-a-long aspect of book narration is great for emerging and experienced readers alike.
Educational value: 3 out of 5; entertainment value is much higher than the educational valueEase of play: 5 out of 5; simply download and hit “play”Consumerism: 1 out of 5; the app is free, but books must be purchased after the free offer
$4.99 per monthIf you’re looking for a book service that tailors only to kids, from toddler to tween, Epic! is the app for you. For a low monthly subscription cost, children have unlimited access to eBooks, audiobooks, and videos.
Children can choose to read independently or with narration, and parents can track reading progress on a stats page (number of minutes read, pages read, books read, etc.). Older children can even share their thoughts on specific books (but there is no chat feature for children to communicate with each other).
In my opinion, Epic! features the most bang for your child’s reading buck!
Educational value: 5 out of 5; parents like the range of books offered, tailored to varying reading levels and interestsEase of play: 5 out of 5; children can read independently or choose narrationConsumerism: 3 out of 5; the app requires a monthly subscription fee