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Some kids are born with an innate love of reading; others, well, not so much. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn to love reading. Today, there are tons of apps that have been specifically designed to encourage and facilitate your little one’s love of the written word. These apps are not replacements for books, but rather, helpful tools that make reading fun and more enjoyable.
The kicker is, for many kids, these apps are more appealing than books. As opposed to a stationary, two-dimensional textbook or notebook, reading apps employ multi-sensory stimulation couched in fun and interactive games. So while your 5 year old might not want to sit down and memorize the ABCs from his schoolbook, he will want to play a super-fun game on your phone or computer. After all - what 5 year old can resist his parents’ electronics?
So if your child is protesting books and ABC-learning tools, a reading app can be just the answer - it’s interactive, educational, and simply makes reading fun. Whether you’re looking for the best reading apps for kindergarten-aged kids, elementary students, or adolescents, read on for the ABC’s of picking the right tool for your child.
Your friend might swear by Homer, your cousin might rave about LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary, and your colleague might go on about how Reading Raven turned her child into a reading-machine.
With all of these different recommendations, where do you start?
We’ve broken down some of the key factors to consider when making your decision about the best apps to help teach reading to your child.
Let’s start with practical considerations. Some apps are only available on iOS, and some are only available on Android. You may find the best app in the world, but if it’s only available on iOS and you have an Android, don’t even bother.
This means that even though a reading app like Reading Raven has great reviews, since it’s only available on iOS or iOS/desktop, Android owners will have to look elsewhere. Only look at the apps that are available on your device. End of story. Great time-saver.
Luckily, most of our picks are available on multiple platforms. If you want to save yourself the heartache of finding an app you want that’s not available on your device, here are some that are available on both iOS and Android: Endless Alphabet, Starfall Learn to Read, Epic, and Elmo Loves ABCs.
If you’re a Kindle devotee, check out Intellijoy’s Kids Learn to Read. This award-winning reading app is available on Kindle devices as well as Android, iOS, and Microsoft.
And if there’s an app that you’re dying to get but isn’t available on your phone, you can set a monthly reminder to check if it’s become available. These apps are constantly being upgraded and updated, so it may just be a matter of time before your desired app becomes available on your device.
ABC apps and reading apps sometimes get lumped together, but you can probably intuit that ABC apps are better-suited for younger kids. Elmo Learns ABCs, Reading Raven, Kids Learn to Read, and Endless Alphabet are some of the best reading apps for kindergarten students or younger.
For older children, Homer, Reading Eggs, and Epic! would be more appropriate, as they have a wider range of games and programs. However, these apps are also suitable for younger children, and can grow with them until the age of 8 and even 13, respectively.
But because these apps are more pricey than others (see below), it’s up to you as to whether you want to start with these from a young age or only move on to them once your child hits age 6.
The main thing to remember is to choose a reading app that is age-appropriate for your child, and don’t try to get your 4 year old to play a game that’s meant for 8 year olds.
School supplies, food, and clothing cost enough on their own, so it’s perfectly normal to want to familiarize yourself with a program before ponying up for a subscription. Luckily, plenty of the best reading apps offer complimentary lessons and free trials to help you decide.
Starfall is one of the best free reading apps out there, while Homer, LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary, and Epic! offer substantial free trials that allow you to test out the lessons and make sure they’re the right fit for your child before making a purchase.
Once you decide to purchase a reading app, you’ll be asked to pay either for subscription or in-app purchases. For example, LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary costs $5/month or $40/year (a fairly average price for a reading app). Homer costs $7.95/month and Epic! costs $7.99 a month. Bear in mind that these two apps are for both younger and older children and contain a much broader range of services. The question is whether you need all of these services and whether you have the budget for it.
Other apps, like Dr. Seuss ABC, costs $1.99 for a quick download, so that might be something you can try without guilt or budget calculations.
But - if you are on a tight budget, you do have the option of choosing an app that offers a few free games and a mild subscription price. And remember, just because an app says “Free download,” there still may be a monthly subscription cost.
The bottom line is, know your child, and his or her preferences and needs. If your 3 year old loves Elmo, then an Elmo ABC app is perfect for her. Same thing for Dr. Seuss’ ABC app. If your 6 year old still needs some help with ABCs, don’t be put off by the ages stated on the apps - just choose what your kid needs.
If your child is older and needs more stimulation or diversity, an app with a broader range of games and activities will probably be better—but remember, it’s only worth something if your child enjoys it and will continue to use it. Assuming that the app is compatible with your device and the price is right, let your child help guide you in finding the reading app that’s best for both them and you.