Reading is a critical skill for young children to develop. Finding fun and engaging ways to encourage reading practice at home can have huge benefits for their long-term literacy and learning. This is where reading apps for kids can be extremely useful tools for parents and early educators.
With thousands of apps in the marketplace, sifting through the options to find high-quality reading apps for 5-8 year olds can be daunting. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the key benefits of reading apps for young kids, factors to consider when selecting an app, provide reviews of the top free and paid options, and tips for using reading apps effectively as part of your child’s early literacy development.
Benefits of Reading Apps for Young Kids
Before delving into specific app recommendations, let’s first look at why reading apps can be so valuable for emerging readers in the 5-8 age range:
Increase Motivation and Engagement
Many reading apps integrate interactive games, quizzes, rewards and other fun elements into the reading experience which can increase kids’ motivation to sit down and read. The immediate feedback and sense of accomplishment kids get from many apps makes reading feel more like playing, keeping them engaged for longer periods.
Improve Specific Reading Skills
From phonics to vocabulary to reading comprehension, the best reading apps allow you to target the specific literacy skills your child needs to build. This makes it easy to customize their learning and offer extra practice.
Promote Independent Reading
Reading apps encourage kids to read independently by making the experience interactive and adjustable to their reading level. Features like narration, text highlighting, and built-in dictionaries also support self-directed reading.
Offer Diverse Reading Material
App libraries contain far more diversity in topics, genres, and types of books than what is typically available in schools and home libraries. This increased exposure to different reading materials broadens kids’ horizons.
Customizable to Reading Level
Quality reading apps assess your child’s reading level then allow you to adjust text difficulty ranging from early readers to advanced books. This helps keep kids in their optimal learning zone.
Portable and Accessible
Tablets, phones, and other devices mean reading apps are easily portable. Kids can read anywhere, whether waiting at appointments, in the car, or wherever it fits into their day. The text-to-speech and narration features also aid accessibility.
Track Progress Over Time
Many apps offer built-in analytics that allow you to monitor time spent reading, vocabulary growth, comprehension scores and more. This makes it easy to identify learning gaps to focus on.
Factors to Consider When Choosing a Reading App
With an abundance of reading apps available, deciding where to start can be tricky. Keep these key factors in mind while evaluating options to find the best fit for your young reader:
Consider your child’s current reading level and skills. Look for apps with leveled books or assessment features to match kids with appropriate texts. Being able to adjust the reading level is ideal for gradual progression.
Seek out apps that offer book genres, topics, characters, and story formats that align with what interests your child. They’ll be most motivated to read books that resonate with their preferences.
If you want to target a specific reading skill like phonics, comprehension, etc., select apps designed for that focus area. Clarifying the exact skills you want to build will guide you.
Quality of Narration and Audio Features
For emerging readers especially, quality narration and text highlighting are key features that aid comprehension and allow kids to follow along independently. Prioritize apps that invest in good audio features.
Kids respond best to apps that use bold, vibrant illustrations and a user interface that’s intuitive to navigate. A visual design made specifically for kids will pull them in.
Reading apps need to be enjoyable enough to keep young kids engaged. Seek out apps with intuitive navigation, fun interactions, rewards, and a sense of progression. The best feel like games, not chore software.
Now that we’ve covered the main benefits of reading apps and what to evaluate in your search, below are reviews of some of the top-rated reading apps for 5-8 year olds divided into free and paid sections.
Top 5 Free Reading Apps for Kids Ages 5-8
1. Epic! – Digital Library for Kids
Epic is one of the leading digital libraries for kids 12 and under. With over 40,000 high quality books and videos from 250+ trusted publishers, there is an enormous selection of reading material for kids to explore.
The real standout feature of Epic is how easily you can filter and search for books based on your child’s age, reading level, skill focus, genres and specific topics of interest. There are a ton of excellent options for early elementary readers.
Epic lets you track your child’s reading progress and see which books they favor. There are also lesson plans and activities related to various books teachers can utilize. While Epic is free for educators, parents can access it for $7.99 per month. However, you get a 30 day free trial to test it out.
2. Audible Stories
Audible Stories provides free audiobooks for kids ranging from literary classics like Winnie the Pooh to more contemporary titles like Llama Llama Red Pajama. The app has books organized by age range so you can filter to stories appropriate for 5-8 year olds.
The audiobooks are all high quality productions, often with sound effects built in to bring stories to life. Kids can comfortably listen to and follow along with the professional narration. While Audible Stories is free, a paid Audible Kids subscription also provides access to their full catalog of over 10,000 children’s audiobook titles.
Tales2Go offers an extensive collection of over 1,000 audiobook titles for kids available through many local libraries. If linked to your library, you simply use your library card number to access Tales2Go for free.
The app has books organized by grade level recommendations, making it easy to select audiobooks well-suited to your early elementary child. Tales2Go combines high quality narrations with sound effects, music, and character voices to engage young listeners. Libraries can also get access to parent engagement resources linked to various titles.
4. Libby by OverDrive
The Libby app, powered by OverDrive, is another free digital library linked specifically to your local public library and library card. Through Libby you can borrow ebooks and audiobooks, including a wide selection of children’s books.
Libby makes choosing the right titles easy with curated lists of recommendations categorized by age, grade level, genre, and topic. You can filter just for children’s materials appropriate for early readers. Any titles borrowed on Libby are available for reading directly within the app. Parents will need to sign in with their own library card first before accessing children’s materials.
5. Free Kids Books
As the name suggests, Free Kids Books offers free access to hundreds of classic books and fairy tales for children to read, with additions made weekly. Books can be filtered by age range and genres to find options suitable for 5-8 year olds.
While not as robust in features as some apps, Free Kids Books is simple for kids to use independently. They can browse titles, read books page by page, and touch words to hear them aloud. There are also corresponding games that reinforce vocabulary from the stories. The app is free without advertisements or in-app purchases.
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Paid Reading Apps Worth the Investment
Reading Rockets Super Kids
For improving overall reading abilities, Reading Rockets Super Kids is one of the top paid apps to consider investing in. Developed by PBS, it assesses your child’s skills then provides personalized recommendations from among hundreds of fiction and nonfiction books.
Super Kids starts with an initial assessment that determines your child’s reading level and skills. Then the app matches them with leveled texts and exercises targeted to their learning needs. As kids read each book, they complete vocabulary, comprehension, and summarization activities. Ongoing progress monitoring identifies growing strengths and problem areas.
While priced at $5.99 per month, Reading Rockets Super Kids uses proven methods tailored specifically to elevating your child’s literacy. The individualized approach makes it well worth the subscription cost. They provide a 7-day free trial period.
Bookful takes a blended learning approach that combines an extensive ebook library with live online reading tutoring. They partner with qualified teachers to provide the one-on-one and small group tutoring sessions aimed at building fluency and comprehension.
What makes Bookful stand out is the ability to schedule unlimited tutoring sessions whenever fits your schedule, with tutors available to meet daily if desired. Beyond live tutoring, kids have access to over 3,500 leveled ebooks to read independently. The app also includes reading comprehension quizzes and word recognition games.
Subscription options range from $49.99 per month for 1 tutoring session/week up to $199.99 monthly for unlimited sessions. The high degree of personalized instruction and tutoring make Bookful a worthwhile investment for parents focused on elevating their child’s reading skills.
For improving reading comprehension and growing vocabulary, Reading IQ is one of the top paid apps available. Backed by reading education experts, Reading IQ assesses your child to determine their reading level and high frequency vocabulary words they know.
Based on the assessment results, Reading IQ provides personalized recommendations from among thousands of fiction and nonfiction books optimized for K-12 readers. Kids read each book then take mini-quizzes focused on building comprehension and vocabulary.
Reading IQ offers detailed reporting to help identify your child’s strengths and knowledge gaps over time. Adjusting the app’s settings easily allows you to increase text difficulty and add more advanced vocabulary as kids improve. Priced at a reasonable $9.99 monthly, Reading IQ is an excellent reading instruction tool.
Tips for Using Reading Apps Effectively With Your Child
While quality reading apps can be invaluable tools, simply downloading an app doesn’t guarantee it will be used effectively. Keep these tips in mind:
Set Goals and Communicate Them
Having clear literacy goals, and discussing them with your child, gives reading time more purpose and focus. Explain how and why apps can help achieve the goals.
Balance With Other Reading
Ensure apps supplement, not replace, the physical books and print reading your child does. The most effective approach blends multiple formats.
Engage in Discussions
Ask kids about the apps they’re using and discuss characters, plots, new vocabulary, and their opinions on books. Deepen comprehension through dialogue.
Monitor Use and Progress
Take advantage of parent dashboard features in apps to monitor time spent reading, achievement, and growth areas. Adjust settings accordingly.
Model Good Reading Habits
Let your child see you reading for pleasure as well to emphasize reading’s real-world importance beyond school and apps.
Gradually shift responsibility to your child to select books, set reading goals, and use the app features independently to build self-direction.
Stay Involved and Offer Praise
While reading apps promote independence, parents staying involved, offering praise, asking questions, and monitoring progress is still vital for young readers.
The breadth of excellent reading apps available today provides exciting opportunities to supplement literacy instruction for emerging readers. Apps should never wholly replace parent-child reading time, but when selected and used thoughtfully, reading apps can boost motivation, strengthen specific skills, and promote reading independence for kids ages 5-8.
Start by evaluating your child’s reading level, skills, interests and learning goals to zero in on appropriate apps. Blend free apps like Epic!, Tales2Go, and Audible Stories with paid subscription apps like Reading Rockets Super Kids, Bookful, or Reading IQ for comprehensive reading instruction. Manage your child’s use of reading apps, stay involved, communicate goals clearly, and offer plenty of praise and support. Integrating reading apps effectively helps instill a lifelong love of reading.