Best Learn to Read Apps

ABCmouse is our pick for the best learn to read apps

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Not all tech time is terrible, and children's learning apps are proof of that. In today's tech-driven world, learning apps are being used at home, on the go, and in the classroom. The heightened demand for these apps has forced app-makers to provide top-notch expert-curated materials that span multiple subjects and learning styles in one easy-to-use educational app. Children's learning apps are a great investment in your child's education by offering the tools needed to get a headstart on early childhood education, learning to read, preventing the summer slide, and even preparing those second graders for what's to come in third grade.

There are dozens of learn-to-read apps on the market now along with multi-subject educational apps, but a few of these learning platforms stand head and shoulders above the rest. The issue is figuring out which apps are best for your child's needs and learning style. From the top educational format for young children to the best lessons for homeschoolers, there's an app available to meet your child's needs. Below we have listed the best learning apps for multiple subjects, budgets, learning styles, and more.

Best Learn to Read Apps of 2022

Best Overall : ABCmouse


ABCMouse

ABCMouse

Key Specs
  • Cost: $13/mo; $45/yr
  • Age Range: 2 to 8 years old
  • Platforms: Online, iOS, Android
Why We Chose It

ABC Mouse is arguably one of the most well-known learn-to-read apps for children, and not only because of the commercials. The program is used in preschools and schools across the globe due to its educator- and expert-curated curriculum and endless hours of content for children two to eight years old.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • The "Learning Path" keeps kids engaged and on track

  • Expert and educator developed curriculum

  • Hundreds of hours of activities, games, and lessons

Cons
  • Can be difficult for 2-3 year olds to navigate online and app lessons

  • Virtual classrooms can be distracting from lessons

Overview

There’s a reason ABCmouse is a longtime favorite for families with young children just learning to read. The interactive app offers thousands of activities to help develop this crucial skill.

Although ABCmouse does have a sub-section called Adventure Academy for 8- to 13-year-olds, its crown jewel is its learn-to-read program for kids ages two to eight. More than 850 lessons span 10 levels in the company's signature "Step-by-Step Learning Path." Each step builds on the previous one to help kids master their reading skills through fun, colorful activities, and there’s no need to spend time trying to sift through lessons to find the "right" one: Kids can "play" straight through the linked lesson path.

The program does offer a 30-day free trial, but the cost after that is around $10 per month. Families who purchase a full year’s subscription can get almost 50% off the price. The app is comprehensive, with lessons that expose students to math, arts, and science at age-appropriate levels. ABCmouse is a robust and fairly affordable option for young kids looking to make learning fun.

Best Free : Starfall


Starfall Learn to Read

Starfall Learn to Read

Key Specs
  • Cost: Free; $35/yr membership
  • Age Range: 3 to 10 years old
  • Platforms: Online, iOS, Android
Why We Chose It

Starfall is a free to a low-cost educational program that provides a fun environment for children in preschool up to the fifth grade to learn to read and understand basic mathematics concepts. It's especially effective for children with learning differences, homeschoolers, and English language development.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Inexpensive

  • Tax deductible

  • One membership works for the entire family

Cons
  • Website is very basic

  • Some material is dated

Overview

The longtime staple of "learn to read" websites is now an app—and, even better, much of the content is free (full access runs just $35 for a year). Starfall, a nonprofit that’s been teaching reading on its website since 2002, has transformed its curriculum to the app format.

"Zac the Rat" shepherds young children through their first phonics lessons, starting with vowel sounds and super simple examples. Along with straightforward reading sessions, there are fun games and activities for kids to play, letting them reinforce their learning while not really feeling like they’re "learning" at all.

Kids can "meet" and read with a variety of charming animal characters, with each lesson teaching a different sound or language skill. Plus, they don’t have to stop using Starfall after they’ve graduated past basic phonics and alphabet lessons.

There are also "It’s Fun to Read" and "Let’s Read" for elementary school students, gradually increasing the difficulty to help students continue improving their language skills. By the time they’re at the most advanced levels, they’re not only getting reading tips, but being introduced to fables, myths, nonfiction, and more genres of literature.

Best for Elementary School : Homer


Homer

Homer

Key Specs
  • Cost: $10/mo; $60/yr; $100/Lifetime
  • Age Range: 2 to 8 years old
  • Platforms: Online, iOS, Android
Why We Chose It

Homer provides a customizable learning path for children two to eight years old. Children will learn reading, math, ESL, creative thinking, and problem-solving skills in a fun and engaging way. For families with multiple children in elementary school, this program is very cost-effective.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Offers a lifetime membership

  • 20 topics to choose from

  • Customized learning

Cons
  • Requires Internet access to use

  • Main focus is on literacy versus other core subjects

Overview

Homer helps toddlers to elementary school students (specifically, ages 2 to 8) learn to read, but it takes a slightly different approach. Instead of a one-size-fits-most approach, Homer customizes learning plans and allows students to take the lead in deciding what they want to work on. The system starts out by teaching toddlers the basics of identifying letters and numbers and works up through early elementary reading passages. Kids get to choose from over 20 topic areas they’re interested in, and the app combines their reading needs with their favorite topics to produce a customized learning plan.

Like other kid-centric reading apps, Homer uses a game-like interface to keep kids engaged and interested. There are two main options for users: working through the lesson plan that the app has put together, or the "practice" mode, which allows students to revisit their favorite activities or spend a little extra time on concepts to really master them. The price point is in line with similar apps: about $10 per month after a free trial, or roughly $60 for a full year.

Best for Homeschoolers : Hooked on Phonics


Hooked on Phonics

Hooked on Phonics

Key Specs
  • Cost: $7/mo for app; $16/mo for premium membership
  • Age Range: 3-8 years old
  • Platforms: Online, iOS, Android
Why We Chose It

Hooked on Phonics is an exceptional tool for homeschoolers due to the large catalog of lessons, games, and fun activities. Depending on the membership you choose, there are also workbooks that are mailed to your home to help with reading, writing, spelling, and math.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Supplemental workbooks

  • Offers four core courses

  • Accessible offline

Cons
  • Premium membership needed for supplemental materials

  • Expensive

Overview

Hooked on Phonics is one of the most popular brands for teaching kids to read, and its integrated system makes it an ideal option for students who are being homeschooled.

The company has been around since the pre-internet days when it mainly focused on physical learning materials like books, flashcards, and worksheets. Now, it’s a multimedia learning platform that still uses the same tried-and-true techniques for teaching kids to read, but with more interactive options than ever.

The Learn to Read app is just the baseline when families subscribe. They also get workbooks, books to read, questions and activities, and more. Children are introduced to each new concept through a series of fun activities, videos, and even songs. Then, interactive games and puzzles help kids practice before they try their hand at reading the corresponding texts.

There’s even a built-in reward system to encourage more achievements. The system is a little bit pricier than other apps (about $16 per month after a trial month for roughly $1), but the higher price point does include more products than just the app itself, which includes workbooks shipped to your door, and access to the full catalog of subjects.

Best for Basics : Reading Raven


Reading Raven

Reading Raven

Key Specs
  • Cost: $3/Vol 1; $2/Vol 2
  • Age Range: 3 to 7 years old
  • Platforms: iOS & Android
Why We Chose It

While other programs on this list offer flashy interfaces and multiple subjects, Reading Raven proves that sometimes just the basics are all you need. This app-only program strips away the wild flash and multiple subjects to put the focus on not only learning to read but also on learning to love to read.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Inexpensive

  • Grows with your child

  • Phonics-based curriculum

Cons
  • App only

  • Must pay for new volumes

Overview

The interactive app Reading Raven is designed not just to teach the basics, but to help kids ages 3 to 7 get a strong start with reading and love it. It’s a phonics-based curriculum that starts out with interactive games teaching kids to recognize and trace letters.

As a bonus, the games' multisensory approach builds hand-eye coordination, listening, and reading skills. It’s a multifaceted way to build a strong foundation for reading comprehension from the very beginning.

By choosing which "adventures" kids can go on, families can customize the learning experience for each grade level. A 3-year-old, for instance, can play games focused on letter sounds and work up to word matching, while a 5-year-old might try an activity putting word groups together.

It’s all interactive and all customizable for what each individual student needs to practice or wants to play. The original app is about $4, and families can get the second volume—with more activities for the same levels—for roughly $3.

Best Supplemental Apps : Skybrary


Skybrary

Skybrary

Key Specs
  • Cost: $5/mo; $40/yr
  • Age Range: 2 to 9 years old
  • Platforms: Online, iOS, Android
Why We Chose It

What makes Skybrary unique is the Video Field Trips hosted by LeVar Burton from Reading Rainbow. There are times you wonder how so much can be packed into an app and this is one of those jam-packed apps. The lessons, curated books, fun activities, and video field trips offer non-stop learning fun.

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Video field trips

  • Books can be "checked out" for offline reading

  • Reading Is Fundamental affiliate

Cons
  • Tablet options less developed

  • Limited access offline

Overview

Skybrary, formerly known as Reading Rainbow, has the benefit of being affiliated with Reading Is Fundamental, a major non-profit organization focused on children’s literacy.

The concept is simple: an interactive digital library within a playful framework that allows young readers to explore topics of their choosing. A wide selection of children's books has been curated by experts, and along with the books themselves, there are plenty of supplemental video "adventures" and read-along narration options. Skybrary is a great way to supplement other reading lessons with books your kids will love.

The app focuses less on the technical part of reading and more on giving kids a constant supply of new reading material. More importantly, the variety the app provides—and the ability for young readers to choose books about things they’re actually interested in—helps foster a genuine love for reading at an early age, and that’s every bit as important as the actual reading skills.

Pricing currently sits at about $5 per month or roughly $40 for an annual subscription. Note: The app is listed as "free" in app stores, but with "in-app purchases."

Best for Memberships : FarFaria


FarFaria

FarFaria

Key Specs
  • Cost: $5/mo; $50/yr; $100/Lifetime
  • Age Range: 4 to 8 years old
  • Platforms: iOS & Android
Why We Chose It

FarFaria invites children to join in on a magical adventure that includes island hopping and the choice between reading the story or having it narrated completely with fun magical animation. While the free membership offers one story a day, the premium membership unlocks access to unlimited adventures (stories).

Pros & Cons
Pros
  • Books available offline

  • Choice between reading the story or having it narrated

  • Magical themes make learning exciting for children

Cons
  • App-only

  • Only one story a day with free membership

Overview

The setup of FarFaria is as charming as it is perfect for young readers. Across several magical "lands" on a map, readers can explore different topics and themes to find new stories to practice their reading skills.

It gives readers more control over what they read and places reading skills into practical contexts rather than full-fledged games or structured lessons. Readers can either read the books themselves or take advantage of the "read to me" option to have them read aloud by professional narrators.

FarFaria has two "tiers" of membership: one free and one paid. At the free level, users can get one new story every day, but paid subscribers get unlimited stories, with new stories added every week and the ability to access "favorite" stories even while offline.

Subscription options include a monthly plan at roughly $5 per month, a yearly plan at approximately $50 per year, or $100 for a lifetime subscription. It means that no matter your price point, you can access new stories to encourage a love of reading.

Final Verdict

If you are looking for an all-in-one multi-subject learning app, ABCmouse is a clear winner. Used for supplemental learning, homeschoolers, and in classrooms, the programs are outstanding for helping young children get a headstart on core subjects. The program is also exceptional for those with special learning needs, and summer reading, keeping little brains busy during school breaks.

If you are looking for a strictly reading comprehension app that is effective and inexpensive, Reading Raven is a great choice. If you want all the bells and whistles to keep your kids engaged through activities and videos, then hands-down Skybrary is for you.

Compare the Best Learn to Read Apps

Company  Pricing  Ages  Platforms
ABCmouse
Best Overall
 $13/mo; $45/yr  2 to 8 years old  Online, iOS, Android
Starfall Learn to Read
Best Free
 $35/yr  2 to 10 years old Online, iOS, Android
Homer
Best for Elementary School
$10/mo; $60/yr; $100/Lifetime 2 to 8 years old Online, iOS, Android
Hooked on Phonics
Best for Homeschoolers
$7/mo for the app; $16/mo for premium membership 3 to 8 years old Online, iOS, Android
Reading Raven
Best for Basics
$3/Vol 1; $2/Vol 2  3 to 7 years old  iOS & Android
Skybrary
Best Supplemental Apps
$5/mo; $40/yr  2 to 9 years old Online, iOS, Android
FarFaria
Best for Memberships
$5/mo; $50/yr; $100/Lifetime  4 to 8 years old  iOS & Android

Guide to Choosing the Best Learn to Read App

What Is a Learn to Read App?

Learn to read apps, are just that: Apps that teach people to read. Everyone from toddlers to children, adult learners, and those learning the English language can benefit from these apps. Many of the apps provide a gradual learning process where the lessons begin as very basic (learning the alphabet and two-three letter words) and then progress through intermediate and advanced levels. These apps also cater to different learning styles and provide activities that make learning how to read fun and engaging, including narrated stories, interactive games, activities, workbooks, and more. A major benefit is that many of these apps are created by experts and educators using evidence-based techniques.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Learn to Read App

With so many reading apps available today, it can be a daunting task to find the right one, especially if you plan to spend money on it. The easiest way to weed through the multitudes of educational apps to find the right one to meet your needs is by making a wish list of the features you'd like the app to have. Do you need a beginner's app or a more advanced app that provides a library of books and activities geared toward a certain level of reader?

To help you get the most out of an app, another feature to consider is the age range the app is geared towards and the potential for it to elevate a reader from a beginner all the way to an advanced reader. And of course, the budget should be a factor. The list above proves you do not have to spend a small fortune to learn to read. Once you have completed your wish list, compare it to our list above and you'll be well on your way to finding the best reading app to meet your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Learn to Read App?

Learn to read apps are mobile apps geared at teaching new readers the basics of reading. In general, they’re typically geared at children, which is what separates them from language learning apps for adults (who are learning to read a second language, not a first one). They’ll typically feature child-friendly activities to introduce basic concepts and slowly build in difficulty, allowing children to practice with curated reading selections and games.

How Much Do Learn to Read Apps Cost?

Like most learning apps, learn to read apps have a variety of prices. Most of them have some form of a subscription service, with many falling in the range of about $8 to $13 per month. There are also apps that allow for one-time purchases, although additional material may require another download. There are even a few free options, from totally free apps to free "tiers" of larger apps. No matter your price point, there’s an app that can work for you.

What Features Do Learn to Read Apps Have?

While every app will, of course, be a little different, most learn-to-read apps for English-speaking children have some features in common. Since these apps are usually aimed at kids, most of them use colorful activities and "games" to introduce young readers to the most basic concepts. Many apps also provide a library of books or short stories that progress in difficulty to keep reading fun and challenging.

How do Learn to Read Apps Help My Child

Several apps include features that meet children where they currently are with reading and then help them continue to learn and progress in fun and engaging ways through activities, games, and interactive reading. Many apps also offer a "practice" feature that lets students work on whatever they particularly need or want to focus on. These apps drive home the fact that it’s not just about teaching kids to read: It’s about teaching kids to love to read.

Methodology

Learning to read is a very personal journey, but it’s one that every family will need to start at some point, and at-home learning is just as important as structured learning in a traditional classroom. We wanted to make sure that our picks included the best-reviewed options, and for the most part, we’ve stuck with long-established, tried-and-true names like ABCmouse, Hooked on Phonics, and so on. We’ve also included specific categories for groups of learners that might need something more specialized, such as homeschoolers or the youngest learners.

We’ve also prioritized apps that give students and families more control over their own learning, whether through offering "practice" modules outside of linked lessons or through libraries of books that can be explored at one’s own pace. Most of the apps here also are useful for more than just one group of students; even the ones targeted specifically at the very youngest learners have related apps or alternate modules that allow students to keep learning through the same program for several years.

Learn to Read Apps

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Edited by
Ally Hirschlag
Allison "Ally" Hirschlag

Ally is an expert in health, science, sustainability, wellness, mental health, and parenting. She has written for publications including The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC Future, and more.

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Updated by
April McCormick
April McCormick

April is the health editor for performance marketing at Verywell, where she oversees family health, wellness, and lifestyle content. Her work has appeared in Real Simple, Martha Stewart Living, Verywell Mind, VErywell Family, Verywell, Fit, Verywell Health, Time, Parents, Parents Magazine, The Straits Times, The Huffington Post, TripSavvy, Parenting, First Time Mom and Dad, Mama Mia, All4Women, the New York Times Bestseller, A Letter To My Mom, and more.

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