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.
And once your child’s love for reading is ignited, it can spark a whole wide world of possibilities.
Where to Begin?
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 which reading app is best for 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 reading apps like Homer and Reading Raven have great reviews, because are only available on iOS or iOS/desktop, Android owners can just move on. Only look at the apps that are available on your device. End of story. Great time-saver.
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.
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, Bob Books #1, Starfall Learn to Read, Epic, and Elmo Loves ABCs.
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, Bob Books #1, Reading Raven, Kids Learn to Read, and Endless Alphabet are all top-rated reading apps that are geared toward ages 3-5.
For older children, Homer 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 12, 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.
A lot of reading apps offer a free download, but then hit you with a subscription payment or other in-app purchases. For example, LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary offers a free download but then charges $5/month or $40/year (a fairly average price for a reading app).
Other apps, like Starfall, offer some free learning games but for the full suite, charge a $35/year membership subscription. Again, not a lot of money, especially compared to Homer, which costs $7.95/month and Epic!, which 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 Homer app boasts that, “Just 15 minutes a day using Homer was shown to increase early reading scores by 74% in a recent study.” A nice claim - but you still need to try it out in real life. Reading reviews can help you get an idea of whether the app itself is truly successful in the real world.
Make sure that the reviews you read are up to date. Reading Raven’s Testimonial page is filled with positive reviews - all from 2012-2013. While they may have been true at the time—and still might be!—make sure to note the dates, because the app has likely undergone so many changes that even a year-old review might not be relevant anymore.
Know Your Child
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.