Back to School certainly feels different this year, with so much uncertainty and change to our normal school schedule. But one thing that will be certain is that our older kids will need to shake their brains out of summer mode and hit the books, be it with masked peers in person or in a virtual classroom.
Whether your kids are voracious readers or a bit more reluctant to get lost in a story book, we are big believers in encouraging reading wherever and whenever possible. And after several months of “free range internet use”, we think that this is an excellent time to download a few apps on our older kids’ devices to make reading even more accessible and fun to do.
So to help them jump into “back to schooling,” as we’re calling it, we’ve already rounded up some great apps for math for younger kids and apps for reading for preschool and little kids, as well as, math apps for upper elementary and middle school kids. Now, keep reading for more than 10 terrific reading apps for upper elementary and middle school kids.
If reading comprehension is a bit of a struggle for your child, I like how Peekaboo Studio’s Reading Prep Comprehension app provides them through short passages to read and then helps them understand what they have just read. This is a great “once-a-day” app which takes under 10 minutes to complete, so kids can knock off a tutorial over lunch or before they get free time to play outside.
With hundreds of stories written for kids reading at a 2nd through 8th grade level, you can meet your child at the level they feel most comfortable and let them gain confidence in their comprehension which is so important as they start reading more and more complex material. (free, with in-app purchases for more content)
Another app that is targeted to upper elementary kids who need a little help with reading comprehension, Main Ideas: Sentences gets kids reading beyond the words to figure out the meaning of the sentences in front of them. I like that they are guided to the correct answer when they get stumped which helps keep frustration levels low, and new levels are only unlocked once they show mastery. The first four levels are free as well, so you can “test drive” this app to see how you and your child like it before you buy. ($2.99 for all access)
If you hear, “But I have nothing to read!” way too often, download Libby, the easy-to-use app by OverDrive, and your kids will have access to tons of ebooks and audio books that they can borrow with a library card. As Kate mentioned in last year’s post about 3 free audiobook apps you need for back to school, the interface of Libby is so kid-friendly, they’ll be able to figure it out themselvesI
I appreciate that parents can set some controls if you don’t want younger readers to have full access to every book in the library: Just limit their searches to “Juvenile” or “Young Adult” titles. I think kids will appreciate that the app remembers where they left off in their story so they can pick up where they left off if they get interrupted in the middle of a juicy spot. (free to use with library card)
And don’t forget: Two other excellent library apps that your kids may prefer are OverDrive and Hoopla Digital which are worth checking out too. (these two apps are also free to use with your library card)
One of the best things about the Mad Libs App is that it is still the hilariously silly game I played as a kid, though, back then, I needed a pencil to write “stinky” in the line for adjective. Now kids just need to download the app and type in their word choices to create ridiculous-sounding stories which are still an excellent way to teach parts of speech, encourage creative word choice (at least beyond “poopy” and “smelly”), and get kids to read out loud. That’s a win-win in my book. (free with additional “books” for $1.99)
What makes Literal such a cool option for tweens and teens is it takes both classic titles and newer books and turns their format into something this generation is very familiar with: Group Chat. Purists may scoff, but this is actually a very fun way to read books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or even Shakespearean classics like Romeo and Juliet (shown at top). Even cooler is that kids can change the characters’ profile pictures or read books together with their friends through a book group. (free to try, then $5-$15/month)
Don’t forget two “classics” in the ebook arena if you are looking for an easy way to get your kids’ hands on books they’ll want to read. Both the Kindle app and Apple Books apps are excellent options we have recommended for years because they are both so easy to use, have features like text enlargement and audiobook capabilities, and also give readers access to books in every genre imaginable, though often at a price. (Kindle is free to download and can be used to read borrowed library books; Apple Books comes loaded on iOS devices and does offer some free titles to read.)
Reading and writing go hand in hand which is why we have long loved the Book Creator app (shown here and at top of page) which gives kids the freedom to put together their own books, be them fiction, tutorials, or comic books. You can encourage your kids to put together a story book about their summer, or copy down their favorite recipes in one place, or create an inspirational travel book about all the places they’ll go once it’s safe to do so. (free with optional $4.99 upgrade)
Wordflex Touch Dictionary may make a word-nerd like me swoon, but It’s also an excellent tool for kids who are starting to explore more complex words and their relationships to each other. It’s also more fun than flipping through a dictionary or thesaurus or doing a basic Google search. Wordflex lets them use their fingers to follow “word trees” that may open them up to trying new words or phrases in their writing which will improve their vocabulary and their comprehension. (available only for the iPad; $3.99 for full access)