Sometimes we think of reading apps as for little kids, but reading apps for kids in middle school and high school can be extremely helpful. Whether your kids are voracious readers or a bit more reluctant to get lost in a book when there are video games to be played (ha), we are big believers in encouraging reading wherever and whenever possible.
Even, yes, on their phones.
Now that we’re heading back to school after several months of “free range internet use” (or uh, more than several months of it), 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, and help shake those brains out of summer mode.
-This post has been updated for 2021-
Related Back to School App Recommendations:
10 terrific reading apps for kids in middle school and high school
Please note that we’ve included links to both developer sites and to the App Store, for the majority of our readers who are iOS users. However many of these reading apps for kids are available in Google Play for Android as well.
Peekaboo Studio Reading Prep Comprehension
If reading comprehension is a bit of a struggle for your child, I like how the Peekaboo Studio Reading Prep Comprehension app provides support using short passages that kids can read…and then follows up by helping 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 who are 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)
Libby App by OverDrive
If you hear, “But I have nothing to read!” way too often, download the Libby app by OverDrive (also at top), the easy-to-use app giving kids 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 think kids will like 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. And parents will appreciate that they can set some controls, should you want younger readers not to have full access to every book in the library just yet; you can limit searches to “Juvenile” or “Young Adult” titles.
(Free to use with library card)
Hoopla Digital App
Alternately, check out the Hoopla Digital app, another fantastic app making use of your kid’s library card. Don’t let the cute picture book at top fool you — it’s great for all ages, giving kids the ability to instantly borrow free digital eBooks, audiobooks, plus comics, music and other media available in your local public library. It’s no wonder it’s one of the top 15 book apps in the App Store.
Also, no late fees! Like Libby, it also includes features like syncing across devices so you never lose your place.
There does seem to be a limit to number of books you can “borrow” at one time but hey, no late fees. Worth downloading both to compare and see which interface feels best for your kids.
(Free with library card)
Dear Reader app
Last year, Liz wrote about the Dear Reader app, and how addictive this app was for her — turns out her teen loves it too. Free with Apple Arcade, this fun, quippy, clever, and fairly challenging iOS game of literary wordplay essentially takes a library of classics — HG Wells, Kafka, Charlotte Perkins Glimore, Virginia Woolf — abridges them, then engages you in various games using the text.
You may have to rearrange words, delete entire lines that seem out of place (that one is brutal when you’re doing Emily Dickinson!), or quickly click on misspelled words. You can read her full review here.
(Free with Apple Arcade subscription)
Literal: An Addictive Reader app
What makes Literal: An Addictive Reader such a cool reading app for tweens and teens that it takes both classic titles along with newer books and turns the format into something GenZ is very familiar with: Group Chat. You can see just how that looks at the very top image.
Purists may scoff, but this subscription app provides a truly fun way to read books like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or even Shakespearean classics like Romeo and Juliet. Even cooler is that kids can change the characters’ profile pictures (Pride & Prejudice, above, like you’ve never seen it I imagine) and kids can read books together with their friends through a book group, which is easily facilitated through the Literal App.
(free to try, then $5-$15/month subscription)
Kindle app and Apple Books app
Don’t forget two classic apps 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 app are excellent options we have recommended here for years, because they are both so easy to use for kids of any age at all so you know they won’t outgrow it any time soon.
Both include 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.)
Wordflex Touch Dictionary
Wordflex Touch Dictionary makes 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 linguistic relationships to each other. It’s also more fun than flipping through a dictionary or thesaurus, or doing a basic Google search.
The Wordflex app (iPad only right now) lets kids use their fingers to follow “word trees” that may open them up to trying new words or phrases in their writing, which of course is designed to improve vocabulary and reading comprehension. (
($3.99 for full access)
The MadLibs App (Really!)
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 gorgeously designed app (iPad, iPhone, Android) and type in their word choices to create ridiculous-sounding stories.
What hasn’t changed is that MadLibs still happen to be an excellent way to teach parts of speech, encourage creative word choice — at least beyond “fart” and “smelly.” And for kids not yet into Dear Reader, it still gets them, well, reading.
That’s a win-win in my book. Plus, the free version includes 21 stories with more being added (you can pay to add additional titles, and kids can play both alone or with friends. And you know we love playing games with friends, especially when we can’t be with them in person.
(free, with additional books $1.99/ea)