The 15 Best Apps for Learning to Read

By sara / December 16, 2016

One rite of passage of being a kid is learning how to read. It can be exciting for the child as they discover new words and stories and it can also be thrilling for parents to see their child learn. In the modern world of the 21st century, there are endless aides to teach reading, and it can be difficult to determine which are the most educational and fun to use. Some are for kids with little to no reading experience, while others are for slightly older children who want to advance further. Some engage parents quite a bit, while others allow them to observe more than participate. This can effect what a family is looking for in an app. The following list of 15 apps represents the best of all of these scenarios for kids to learn how to read.

When selecting this list, we looked at what techniques and strategies are the most effective, which programs keep children engaged and which programs involve the parents to an effective but not overwhelming degree. As technologies have changed, studies have shown, as published by Reading Rockets that the use of newer technologies not only enables to learn the task at hand, such as reading but also pairs it with knowledge of technology that they'll regularly use. Additionally, the use of technology assures a more individualized support system and thus the child feels more supported, as stated by Scholastic

15. Bookster

Bookster is a storytelling app that will not only read to children but will also allow them to record their reading and to pay it back. Their goal is to teach vocabulary at any level of reader. Pictures, as well as words, will engage the new readers and will allow the less experienced kids to connect. Interactive features, such as flipping pages and words that can be tapped on the screen, keep the child involved in the learning process. As the child progresses, levels of content will adjust to meet their increasing abilities and help them to improve further. This allows for a no-pressure atmosphere as the children learn at their own pace and are encouraged to continue.

This program is much more straightforward than many of the other programs featured here and is more simply designed. That being said, the minimal flourish and lack of pizzazz put the focus back on the content of the app. This will increase their skills from auditor and shape guides into the alphabet, then to words and sentences. This allows for younger participants who are not yet reading to work through self-lead activities and to learn independently.

For the kids who have a handle on basic reading and are now looking to expand their knowledge while gaining a higher reading ability, Encyclopedia Britannica is a perfect fit. It puts their reading skills to the test, as the child can read content that utilizes phonics rules, while they also learn about other topics, such as science or history related topics. The best part for the child is they can choose the topics they review and what they learn about while improving their reading abilities and enjoying the experience.

For a game with bright colors and sounds, Super Why Phonics Fair is a great option. It allows the participant to play games where they are learning about letters and sounds without the awareness of effort being required. The setting is in carnival games, which allow for variety and fun throughout. As the child works through the games, their spelling abilities are enhanced, and they'll want to keep playing to learn more.

Capitalizing on an old classic with a modern twist, Elmo is here to teach the new round of youngsters how to read. Various levels ensure the needs of infants to children and every skill level in between as they learn the alphabet. The interactivity of videos and images keep the younger kids connected and learning while also entertained. Though the game can become repetitive and a bit boring for adults monitoring their children, the presence of Elmo connects parent to child and child to the building blocks of reading. This is a good starting point, but challenging materials can be found in other applications.

10. PlayTales

For families that want to expand beyond English, there are apps that offer foreign language for young children. PlayTales offers storytelling that is similar to some of the other apps listed here with creative images but takes it to the next level by providing the content in eight different languages. Participation from the reader is available via the reading and other interactive options. Out of all of the apps on the list, this one has the largest age range of compatibility and is the unique in what it offers for education.

For the parents out there, this program not only is educational but also brings some nostalgia into the process. Together with their kids, parents can share part of their childhood and help them learn in the process. LeVar Burton, the host of the original show on PBS, acts as your host and a guide through the app's activities, but the books are the focus. That being said, the cost to review said books can be costly, at $10 a month, or $30 for six months).

8. Tika Tok Story Spark

This app encourages a higher level of reading and writing development. Once the child has a basic understanding of reading, they can advance to this app, which allows them to write and illustrate their own books. Before they get started on their writings, lessons are available to expand their knowledge. Colorful images and easy to follow instructions encourage children to move forward in this program. Once their product is complete, they can even print the completed product, which leaves them with their first published work. Not bad for someone who is only in the single digits of age.

Lessons are disguised as mini-games for kids who are developing their skills from more basic ABC's and words toward understanding the actual content. What makes it so engaging for children is the characters, such as Martha, the talking dog, and the selection of games that all teach valuable lessons. This is best for kids who are expanding their vocabulary and love some fun.

6. MeeGenius

While many reading apps have books for children to read, few apps have as large of a collection as MeeGenius. With over 700 stories to choose from, including well-known children's authors, to up-and-comers, children can choose titles based on their interest and skill level. To help them improve their reading ability, the app has a function that can play the story out loud that is paired with highlighting of the words read. This improves the child's recognition of the words, how they are said, what they mean and how they are used.

For a program that builds with the skill level of the child, it is hard to get a more comprehensive program than Bob Books. Whether in print, in the app, or a combination of both, this program is valuable over time. After learning the alphabet, the child can learn, at their pace, how to sound out words and then sentences. They can adjust the levels as they see fit or have it automatically adjust with their learning. As the child advances, they also are rewarded with increasingly colorful images which is increasingly satisfying.

The 2013 App of the year Runner-Up and iTunes App Store's Editor's Choice deserves its high regard. Children are guided through vocabulary lessons, and the increasingly difficult terms are learned with style. The characters, or monsters, are fun and entertaining to the point that children are having a blast as they work through their games. Each word they learn in the game can be examined and experimented with, as the child learns how to use terms and apply them in reading properly.

In this app, kids not only get a diverse set of lessons in phonics and basic reading, but they also get knowledge in various areas in the form of fun facts and games throughout the program. Side options, such as free drawing, allow those kids who aren't committed to reading yet to have an outlet. Critical thinking is expected of those who are progressing through reading lessons. Aside from traditional phonics lessons, Learn with Homer keeps the child engaged by weaving lessons into voice recording, music, and other interactive opportunities.

This app is a continuation of the Starfall Learn to Read website, which has identical content. Mini-books in the app have specific focuses on the sounds of letters, specifically vowels. The use of music, videos, readings and repetition of the vowel sounds in those passages allow for children to follow patterns and learn how vowel sounds work in various contexts. Games also keep children connected to learning and how to apply lessons as they are learned in this app.

FeelElectric! is one of the best blends of an app between educational and fun. Activities that aide in the learning process relate to games, story building, videos and a diary where descriptive words are provided to help the newer reader and writer to capture their thoughts and feelings. This program is also a favorite of parents due to how the components regarding feelings can be shared with the parent. Such techniques are typically utilized by families that aren't currently living together, such as military families. This essential function, paired with great interactivity makes this program hard to beat.