School season is here, no getting around it, and that means independent reading time, kiddie book clubs and classroom reading groups. We’ve offered up the best math apps for kids, the best science apps for kids, the best preschool apps, and now we’re closing out our 2013 back to school tech guide with apps that help kids with reading. Brushing up on reading skills is always a good idea, and with these fun learning apps, the focus is squarely on edutainment. It’s a combination that we love, especially when it works. -Pilar
READING APPS FOR PRESCHOOLERS
Starfall ($2.99, iOS and Android)
With its simple stories and rhymes, Starfall starts kids with letter sounds through reading simple stories. Kids can always click on a word to hear it read aloud, and the cutesy design definitely is made for the preschool set.
First Letters app ($0.99, iOS and Android)
While the Alphabet Song is nothing you’ll want on heavy rotation, this app sings it with letter sounds as well as the traditional ABC version for the earliest pre-readers.
Learn with Homer (free, iOS)
However you feel about the Common Core Curriculum, this app that we recently discovered (and totally love) does an outstanding job integrating them into an app that engages kids 3-6 more than any test prep session. It’s dynamic, fun, and the first 30 lessons are free.
READING APPS FOR EARLY ELEMENTARY
Duck Duck Moose Reading HD ($3.99, iOS)
Formerly called the Kindergarten Reading app, this app from award-winning developer Duck Duck Moose was developed by an early educator to introduce beginning readers to phonics, sounding out words, spelling, and learning lower case letters.
Bob Books ($1.99, iOS)
This well-loved series of books will get your kiddos on the road to reading, with a variety of phonics and reading pages that are engaging and increasingly challenging. A great way for your kids to feel like they’ve mastered a real book, Bob Books focuses keenly on a single concept (e.g., short “a” sounds, or blends).
Endless Alphabet ($5.99, iOS)
What makes this app so much fun are the adorable graphics and sophisticated wordplay that doesn’t talk down to kids. The 26 words included aren’t your typical “CAT” or “TOP” spelling words, but more interesting words like “Bellow” and “Gargantuan.”
Word Wagon ($1.99, iOS)
Teach your kids phonics and spelling with this fun little app, which features more than 100 words, accompanied by adorable graphics. Different levels will appeal to different aged learners and keep the app fresh for a while.
Me Books (free, iOS)
While this isn’t an actual phonics program, Me Books could be a really fun addition to any reading work you are doing. You can “flip” through the titles and hear the story read aloud or you can record yourself (or your child) reading the words and listen to it that way. Most of the titles would be pretty challenging for a typical 4-year-old on his own, however it could be fun to use this app together at story time.
Starring You Books by Storybots (free, iOS)
Also included in our round-up of the best free educational apps for kids, these interactive kids’ books let your kid put their faces right into the characters in the story, making the lessons even more engaging. They come from the makers of JibJab so you know they’ll be entertaining and well-produced, too. There’s a new release each month about topics as varied as weather, counting, trucks, and the alphabet.
READING APPS FOR LATER ELEMENTARY
Barefoot World Atlas ($4.99, iOS and Android)
Barefoot Books created something special with this app. Like an interactive geographic encyclopedia, there is something here for kids of just about any age. Though it isn’t an ebook in the regular sense, each picture or flag pulls up a text box with information or even photographs and 3-D rotation photos, really putting readers to work.
Storia (free with 5 books to start, iOS and Android)
This app from Scholastic books creates a virtual bookshelf for your children (you can create up to 10 shelves) with content specific to their age and reading level, making it easy for them to hone their skills flipping through subjects they like.
Reading Rainbow (free to explore, $9.99 for the whole library; iOS and Android)
When the beloved PBS show Reading Rainbow came back as an iPad app, there was a collective shriek of joy from parents of a certain age. Designed for kids 3-9, it literally puts hundreds of books at kids’ finger flicks, letting them practice reading at their own pace.
For more great apps, gear and everything else your kids need to kick off a new school year, check out the rest of our Back to School Tech Guide 2013!