Want to make the most of screen time for your young reader? These tried and true reading apps promote phonemic awareness in young children. Phonemic awareness is a child's ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the sounds of letters and groups of letters.
Transforming reading into a fun and engaging activity not only supports children in developing essential literacy skills but it encourages them to build a love of learning too. The educators and creators of the free reading apps below have made it their mission to do just that!
In a time when social distancing can pose challenges to young readers (practicing reading is a fun activity to do with friends, family, and classmates after all), incorporating extra learning activities into your kids' screen time may offer an effective way to overcome that obstacle. Plus, these hand-picked literacy and reading apps are all free!
Named one of the best inventions of 2020, Duolingo ABC teaches young readers the alphabet, phonics, sight words, and more! With over 300 short, interactive lessons, Duolingo is an easy-to-navigate, gamified learning program; “gamified” meaning readers set their own pace and progress in a fun and multi-sensory way. These mini-games keep readers engaged and motivated through reward systems that build confidence and fluency in reading.
OG Card Deck
Developed around the Orton-Gillingham method of word learning, OG Card Deck helps readers sharpen their understanding of over 80 common sound correlations that form the building blocks for reading and spelling. Each phonemic card provides opportunity for experiential learning through hearing the sound, watching a clip of the proper articulation, and practicing with a voice recording/playback option. This app is a useful and straightforward literacy tool that will increase phonemic awareness in your reader.
ABC Magic Phonics
There are a handful of ABC Magic Phonics versions that you can navigate through as your reader gains fluency. This app is an excellent introduction to phonics. Like OG Card Deck, ABC Magic Phonics takes a fun but more simplistic approach to teach readers letter/sound connections and sound combinations, reinforcing comprehension with phonetic pictures. Some gamified reading apps with all the bells and whistles,can distract kids from retaining new information. If your reader is easily overstimulated, these fun but straightforward learning tools may be a better fit.
Phonics Genius is another flashcard-style app that increases phonemic awareness and is customizable to its user. Readers learn to identify letter sounds, their relationship to words, and how to blend them. Kids start by choosing a letter or letter combination and then have the choice to select where in the word set (beginning, middle, or end) they would like it to go. With over 6,000 words grouped into a few hundred categories, readers can enjoy diving into the multitudes of phonetic combinations.
Starfall Learn to Read
Starfall has proven to be an effective program for teaching emergent readers language comprehension. Focusing on phonemic awareness, sequential phonics, and common sight words, Starfall uses playful, multisensory games and activities to engage its users. It emphasizes exploration and grasps the necessity of positive reinforcement. “Great” and “making progress” are sounds kids need to hear when learning a new skill. In this way, Starfall promotes confidence in your reader that they will cherish and utilize offscreen.
Reading Hero is an app that assists kids with their sight words. Readers recite words aloud into the microphone and are provided immediate feedback, gently ensuring errors will not become permanent patterns. Essentially, the app provides support comparable to a tutor or reading buddy for those tricky, “non-decodable” words. Practicing and supplementing the memorization of high-frequency sight words in addition to phonics instruction helps readers approach reading and grasp literacy through multiple avenues.
Teach Your Monster To Read
Like ABC Magic Phonics, there are multiple Teach Your Monster To Read apps you can download based upon your readers level. All are composed of fun, interactive games that feature a charming monster who engages your readers' imagination while teaching letter sounds/combinations and how to blend/segment them.
This award-winning app is not only immensely captivating with its story line and graphics, it was designed in collaboration with leading academics and compliments all synthetic phonics programs used in schools. It is worth noting that this program is free if accessed through its website on a computer, and has a 30-day free trial on your smart device with minimal cost beyond that.
Khan Academy Kids
Like most apps mentioned here, Khan Academy Kids creates an individualized experience for every learner and touches on multiple subjects, including reading. It features interactive activities, books, videos, games, and more! This app also allows you to see which activities your child has completed and track their progress. Khan Academy also offers offline content in a special section of the app’s library called “Kodi’s Suitcase,” which allows your reader to engage anywhere without an internet connection.
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