Heidi Reina, M.S., Ed, is an educational technology integrator and teacher, reviewing free educational websites and apps.
Six Apps for New Reader Fun
These free reading apps for kids make it a joy to get your children engaged in reading. I see how their captivating illustrations, graphics, and games draw beginning readers into a story. Children interact with letters, words, and illustrations in ways that aren't possible with print on paper. Some of the apps include read-along stories, which are a fantastic tool to help kids develop fluency.
Where to Get These Reading Apps
- For your iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch, go to the iTunes App Store.
- For your Kindle Fire, go to the Amazon App Store.
- For other Android tablets and smartphones, go to the Google Play Store.
Khan Academy Kids
- Available for: iOS, Android, Kindle Fire
- Grades PreK–2
The Khan Academy Kids app offers a rich variety of beginning reader activities. All of them are beautifully illustrated and use research-proven learning techniques.
Preschoolers can learn their ABCs and sounds with simple read-along stories. There are games to trace letters and copy words.
Another section features Foundational Reading Skills. Learn about the parts of a book. Read words in the world outside of books, like labels on packages and signs on doors. Play with rhymes, count syllables and blend sounds.
Beginning readers in K–2 can choose from a large variety of interactive stories. Each story has options for narrated read along or read on your own.
I recommend that app to everyone I know with a young child. The variety of reading activities puts it at the top of my free app list.
Kid Mode: Play + Learn: Multiple reading skills
- Available for: Android, Kindle Fire
- Grades PreK–3
Kid Mode: Play + Learn is an all-inclusive award-winning app designed for use by children from ages 2–8. Familiar cartoon characters engage kids in games to help them learn the alphabet, and basic reading skills. Characters from PBS Kids, Disney, Thomas the Train, Teletubbies, Blues Clues and Winnie the Pooh help to keep the kids engaged and the learning fun. This app has lots of great activities for math skills too!
Getting Started With Kid Mode
Unite for Literacy
- Available for: All Devices (web-based)
- Grades K–3
UniteforLiteracy is an award-winning website-based app for early readers. It has more than 400 non-fiction books. About a quarter of the titles are available in Spanish. Children can read with or without narration. Most of the book themes are centered on the natural world: plants, animals, people, weather.
ABC Letter Tracing : Alphabet
- Available for: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
- Grades PreK–K
The ABC Letter Tracing app is a colorful engaging game to help your young ones learn to recognize and write the alphabet. Each upper and lowercase letter has an accompanying picture representing its sound. And a gentle encouraging voice guides your children along as they trace the letters.
Sight Words List: Vocabulary
- Available for: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
- Grades K–2
Your child's teacher gives every beginning reader a list of "sight" or "Dolch" words to memorize and recall instantly when they see them. The Sight Words List app eases the task of learning to read those first frequently words. This app has 315 sight words broken down by age. You can select the words you want your child to learn and record them with your own voice. Create your own word lists as your child's skills improve.
ICDL Books for Children: Free Books
- Available for: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch
- Grades K–5
The International Children's Digital Library offers a collection of thousands of free picture books from more than 60 countries on their ICDL Free Books app. The ICDL Foundation's goal is to help young readers become better world citizens by introducing them to stories and cultures from dozens of countries.
Your Library's Book App
It's often overlooked in our digital world. But most local libraries now have ebooks. And they each have their own flavor of library app you use to "check out" ebooks for you and your kids. Among the most popular apps used by libraries are OverDrive, Libby (from OverDrive), Hoopla, EBSCO eBooks, and RBdigital (for magazines).
So go to your library's website and see which app to download... and don't forget your library card!
How One Library's OverDrive App Works
Starfall Learn to Read app - for the Kindle Fire
More Free Reading Apps
- Free epub children's picture books: Lists some of the best free classic ebooks available from Project Gutenburg.
- Young Readers EPUB ebooks for free download | epubBooks.com: 100 Young Readers books: Both fiction and non-fiction written for children and teenagers. Read on your Apple iPad, Nook, Kobo, iPhone and others. All are public domain and include classic titles such as Pinnochio, Little Women, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Secret Garden.
- Word Domino Free | Android: Designed with a speech therapist, this fun letter game helps children on their vocabulary and their reading skills.
- A to Z: Mrs. Owl's Learning Tree (Free) | Android: Learn the alphabet and phonetic letter sounds with the help of Mrs. Owl. Beautiful illustrations and sound effects help to focus children's attention. This free version includes A–Z and word recognition quizzes.
- Colorpad A–Z | Android: This coloring book app helps PreK and K children learn their alphabet while they express their creativity. It includes audio pronunciations of each letter.
- Preschool All Words 3 Lite | Android: This app for PreK–1 includes 500 words, including sight words, with nice illustrations. It has a word-object match quiz that reads the word to the child when they get it right.
- Monkey Match | iTunes: This pre-K pre-reading app offers lots of animated hijinx to help your young one learn the alphabet and phonemes - beginning sounds and rhymes. The app comes from WGBH's PBS Kids show, "Between the Lions".
- ABC Magic Phonics | iTunes: For PreK–K. Simple app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. See a letter and the picture of a word that begins with that letter. Tap the letter to hear its sound. Tap the picture to listen to its word. No distractions on the screen help kids to focus on the basics.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2012 Heidi Reina
What's been your experience with reading apps?
Heidi Reina (author) from USA on May 21, 2020:
It looks very useful. I'd love to hear reader feedback from anyone who's tried this app.
Reading Hero App on May 11, 2020:
This article is fantastic! Thank you for sharing these resources.
We don't mean to come off as spammy but would definitely love to be on this list! We're passionate about free learning tools for children just like you which is why we created Reading Hero. Will you take a look when you have a moment?
We are a team consisting of Josh, Erick and Anthony. We are educators, developers, creatives and all new parents, who have banded together over the past five years, on a mission to create a fun app that empowers students to learn to read on their own without the need of a tutor. Please feel free to reach out to us with any questions at email@example.com. Thank you for your time, Heidi!
Zoey Anderson on September 27, 2019:
could be better if you could make your own book
Heidi Reina (author) from USA on November 28, 2016:
Thanks for the recommendation! It looks like a really interesting interactive story set. Readers be advised that the app and first group of stories are free with registration. Other story sets for the app are fee-based.
Heidi Reina (author) from USA on October 26, 2016:
Looks like a good one, Caroline. Thanks for sharing it!
DaniRren on December 10, 2013:
Meme tales looks quite interesting to me. Given that kids are now using gizmos to learn how to read it makes for an interesting way for a child to learn how to read. I use interesting ideas to make learning more exciting for my kids. educationalplay.info
ReadingTrain on December 08, 2013:
As a kindergarten and first grade teacher, I can never find enough good books at the easiest reading level so I write them myself. There are some great learn to read apps but most of them focus on phonics skills and any books they include are too hard for the very youngest readers. I have just released an iPad app called The Reading Train, which is loaded with more than a hundred easy to read books on 3 levels, a picture dictionary, songbooks and a great quiz train game to extend the learning after every book. It is perfect for ages 4-6, as well as English language learners and children with special needs.The app is free to download and I would love to hear your feedback.
Heidi Reina (author) from USA on November 02, 2013:
@Jeanine 515: I'm sorry these didn't work for you. I fixed the free ebooks link, so please try again. To download Kid Mode, go to the Google Play store from your Android device, or the Amazon store from your Kindle Fire. Either way, it's free.
Jeanine 515 on October 29, 2013:
I tried to go to the kid mode play and learn and the free ebook links and both didn't work:-(
Early2ReadMom on October 21, 2013:
I got my kids started early to readâ¦before they ever entered kindergarten. I canât overstate how much it helped their overall confidence level in all subjects. My boy started reading at age 3. As he entered first grade and they told me he was reading on the 5th grade level. Kids love reading when they can learn with no pressure.
For more info on my favorite program on early reading by phonics
HeadStartForKids on October 09, 2013:
You usually get what you pay for :) The free ones are limited but there is no investment that will repay itself more profoundly than getting your kids reading confidently and enjoyably. It gives them a whole different outlook on life and education so do whatever you can!