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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R2S is committed to creating a diverse environment and is proud to be an equal opportunity employer. We encourage candidates from diverse backgrounds who bring different perspectives and experience to apply.
Now Hiring: Learning & Engagement Manager
An integral member of the R2S team, the Learning and Engagement Manager is responsible for the development, implementation, and daily management of Read to Succeed’s literacy programming. These experiences include early (0-5 yrs) and K-3 literacy programs as well as family learning initiatives. The main responsibilities of this position include: developing and implementing trainings and programs; scheduling, training and supervising staff, volunteers, and interns; growing and maintaining community partnerships and communication strategies; overseeing student intakes and matching of students with tutors; designing and administering of student assessments; managing budget expenditures for instructional materials and curricula; and providing ongoing support to staff, tutors and students.
Now Hiring: K-3 Literacy Coordinator
An integral member of the R2S team, the K-3 Literacy Coordinator assists the Learning and Engagement Manager (Manager) in K-3 literacy program implementation, including scheduling and training volunteers and interns; maintaining community partnerships and communication strategies; performing student intakes and matching of students with tutors; conducting student assessments, tracking student and tutor data, tracking budget expenditures for instructional materials and curricula; and providing ongoing support to tutors and students.
We’ve curated a list of eight of the best wintertime storybooks to read with your children this year. Some are classics and some are brand-new. Take a look and leave a comment with a book that you would add to the list!
"The Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats
A children’s wintertime classic and the recipient of the 1963 Caldecott Medal, "The Snowy Day" has been read and loved by millions of children for decades. "The Snowy Day" beautifully captures the sense of excitement and whimsy children experience playing in the snow. Take three minutes to enjoy this free read aloud with your children by the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.
"The Nutcracker in Harlem" by T. E. McMorrow - Educational
A young Black girl in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance (1910s through mid-1930s) learns to sing and dance thanks to her newly-found magical nutcracker toy. This beautiful wintertime storybook immerses readers into the joy of the winter holiday season. The Nutcracker in Harlem won the Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Book of the Year award and is illustrated by the Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist James Ransome.
"Snowflakes" by Cerrie Burnell & Laura Ellen Anderson
Mia, the young protagonist, leaves the big city to go to live with her grandmother in a hidden, snow-covered forest village. She struggles with her new life, having to adapt to a new climate and rural, farming way-of-life. Mia questions why everything is different, including why the other children’s skin color is lighter than hers. The beautiful moral of "Snowflakes" is: “Every snowflake is different, every snowflake is perfect.”
"Amadi’s Snowman" by Katia Novet Saint Lot
A young Nigerian boy named Amadi escapes his mother’s daily reading lessons to run off to the market. But something unusual captures Amadi’s attention: he is stunned when he catches a popular older boy secretly reading. Amadi’s curiosity piques when he notices a strange new storybook about a fluffy white being with a carrot-nose, and this leads him to realize that reading can open up vast new corners of the world - including snow, which he’s never seen. Plus, here are free Amadi’s Snowman educational activities.
"Molly, by Golly!" by Dianne Ochiltree - Educational
"Molly, by Golly!" Is an intense legend about how the first female firefighter, a courageous Black woman named Molly Williams, fights a raging fire during a dangerous blizzard storm. Molly bravely takes charge despite the rest of the all-male firefighting team being ill with the flu. Author Dianne Ochiltree consulted historic records and firefighting experts to retell the story of the legendary Molly in the early 1800s.
"The First Day of Winter" by Denise Fleming
Featuring whimsical watercolor paintings by the author herself, "The First Day of Winter" follows a young boy who bestows gifts to a magical snowman over the first ten days of winter. Get started now with this free read-aloud video on Youtube, and discuss literary concepts with your children afterward with this free "The First Day of Winter" educational toolkit from the State Library of Ohio - click here.
"Cold and Hot" by Jacqueline Sweeney
A young Black boy experiences the two temperature extremes - very cold and very hot - within the same wintry day from his parents piling on several layers of clothing after he goes to play in the snow. Perfect for ages 3 to 6 years old. (Plus, check out this free parents’ and teachers’ guide here).
"Malaika’s Winter Carnival" by Nadia L. Hohn
In the second book in the Malaika series, a young Black girl named Malaika finally joins her mother in a new country. Here, she experiences her first snow while she acclimates to her entirely new world: she must learn to get used to the new chilly climate and her new school, family, and friends. Follow Malaika’s journey as she visits her first magical winter carnival! Beautiful mixed-media illustrations by Irene Luxbacher. For more information, visit the author’s website.
What books would you add to this list? Leave a comment below!
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At the end of the year, we like to take a look back at some of our favorite articles we posted on the blog. Don't miss our top 10 posts from 2020 and leave a comment to let us know your fave!
Stay tuned in 2021 for more fun, creative, and effective family literacy ideas on the R2S blog!
The incredible challenges of 2020 have shown our entire community just how resilient, compassionate, and forward-thinking we are. Read to Succeed volunteers and supporters are no exception.
When the pandemic struck and schools closed, our volunteers were unable to continue serving the 200+ students with whom we worked in-person across 11 elementary schools. We quickly had to adapt our programming and find a way to reach families, support teachers, and keep advocating for literacy in our WNC community.
Over the past eight months, R2S has invested significant time and resources in transforming our delivery of services. In addition to creating interactive online training courses for our volunteers, we also fully adapted our reading tutoring program to an online format.
Now, when 2nd-grader Amani meets with her tutor Bob, they do so over video conference. Amani in her home on her laptop, and Bob in his home on his computer - reading, connecting, and practicing core literacy skills.
We know that R2S students have not received the support they deserve this year. The pandemic has widened an already-existing opportunity gap between Black and white students in Asheville City and Buncombe County Schools. Lack of access to learning resources, one-to-one support, and in-class instruction leaves students further and further behind.
Bottom line: THE TIME TO STEP UP IS NOW. Your partnership makes our work possible. Will you help us reach our fundraising goal of $25,000 by December 31st, 2020? Click the button below to donate securely online.
Or mail a check made out to Read to Succeed Asheville/Buncombe to:
Read to Succeed
PO Box 18652
Asheville, NC 28814
Despite the challenges of this year, we have emerged on the other side of 2020 with a renewed sense of purpose and an impassioned commitment to advocating for early literacy. Your dedication to our community’s children energizes us. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your continued support of Read to Succeed!
Are you ready to get into the holiday spirit AND support an awesome literacy nonprofit right here in Asheville? Well then head on down to Barnes & Noble in Biltmore Town Square the weekend after Thanksgiving for the Read to Succeed Holiday Book Fair!
Where: Barnes & Noble in South Asheville (33 Town Square Blvd, Ste 100, Asheville, NC.)
When: Sat., November 28th - Sun., November 29th, 2020
What to expect: Barnes & Noble staff will be handing out COVID-safe snacks from the cafe as well as bookmarks and crafts for kids to take home.
The best part? Proceeds from every purchase that weekend will go to Read to Succeed Asheville/Buncombe. Plus, everyone who visits has a chance to win this awesome holiday bundle featured below.
How to Shop & Support R2S
To ensure your Barnes & Noble purchase benefits R2S, make sure you present the bookmark below when checking out. You can click the PDF below to open and print it, or they will be handing out bookmarks at the entrance to Barnes & Noble on the days of the Book Fair (Nov. 28th and 29th).
Would you rather shop online! No problem! Visit BarnesandNoble.com online and make sure to check the box that asks you if yours is a book fair order on the payment page. When prompted, enter the R2S Bookfair ID: 12602066. Learn more here
RSVP for the R2S Book Fair on facebook here and you will get a reminder when it is happening! This family-friendly event is TOTALLY free to attend and Barnes & Noble is taking all precautions to keep everyone who participates safe and comfortable.
Our deepest gratitude goes out to Barnes & Noble who has already collected over 400 children's books for R2S as part of their larger Holiday Book Drive that runs through Dec. 12th, 2020. Your dedication to children in our community and literacy achievement is energizing, and we are so thankful for your partnership!
Did you know November is National Family Literacy Month? What an excellent time to celebrate reading together as a family!
From birth to adulthood, research shows that reading aloud with kids builds strong literacy skills. Learning to read is the most important skill a child can learn since all future learning depends on reading ability. All future academic success, professional achievement, emotional and behavioral development, civic engagement, financial well-being, and overall health depend in part on a person’s literacy skills.
When young children learn to read at grade-level, they also feel more confident, capable, and enthusiastic about learning. Don’t miss these ten fun ideas for celebrating National Family Literacy Month in November (and all year!):
Reading is a critical component of children’s academic - and future life - success. Studies show that kids learn to read and comprehend stories in a multitude of ways, both inside and outside of the classroom. Kids are inherently inquisitive about the world around them so, naturally, they embrace learning new things.
Below are 15 fun, creative ideas that organically weave reading, comprehension, and vocabulary into family time activities! They are great for all kids, including those who love reading and those who aren't yet fond of it.
In addition to involving you in your child’s education in a fun and effective way, these family time activities may also foster a deeper relationship with your child, creating lasting memories for years to come.
Here at R2S, we are all about reading, so we thought we would ask our new Executive Director some fun reading-specific questions to learn a little bit more about her.
What is your favorite children’s book?
My favorite children’s book that I read to my son, especially around Halloween, was “My Monster Mama Loves Me So”. Beyond the many books my son got throughout the year, every Christmas, I would get him a special one that I would inscribe, and we would read on Christmas Day. My favorite one is “The Gift of Nothing." It totally sums up our relationship and how we view gifts/giving. You should definitely read it.
Where is your favorite place to read?
I love reading before I go to bed. It’s a time to unwind and escape the day-to-day. I often fall asleep with my glasses on and a book on my chest.
What’s the last thing you read, book or otherwise?
I’ve just picked up (again) “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova. I love how she weaves time and space so fluidly and how the pieces all come together in the end. Her words are so descriptive that you can feel, see, taste every moment and place.
If you could have one author, dead or alive, over for dinner, who would it be? Why?
Madeleine L'Engle. I loved the Wrinkle in Time series and still have all the books, which I often reread as an adult. As a young girl, it was the first book I read that incorporated modern science and a strong, smart female character. It inspired me to imagine a world beyond my reality and piqued my interest in science. An interest that led me to two post-graduate degrees that incorporated both education and science.
Who inspired your love of reading?
My mom, most definitely. Her mom, my grandma Jewell, was a librarian, and books were readily available to her growing up. Ever since I can remember, we would read together every day. And while we didn’t have much growing up, we always had books. After all these years and over 15 moves back and forth across the country, I still have many of my childhood books….including “Drummer Hoff” and “The Giving Tree."
What’s your favorite book-to-movie adaptation?
It’s a toss-up. I’ve loved the adaptations of Dr. Seuss’s “The Lorax” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”. I’ve watched those cartoon specials since I was young. More recently, I’d say the Harry Potter series. I love the books (have the full set in hardback) and have enjoyed the movies as well.
When is the last time you read to someone else?
My mother has late-stage Parkinson’s and is unable to read or really do much of anything for herself. I, and others, now read her the books she’s enjoyed since she was young. Mostly children’s books that she and I have collected over the years.
If you wrote an autobiography, what would it be titled?
"What’s Your Excuse?. . .What’s Your Inspiration?" I am thankful for my journey and all the people who have been and/or are a part of it. I’ve had many wonderful, magical experiences and, at the same time, some horrible ones as well. Storytelling has always been important to me, personally and professionally. I hope to share my story one day to bring humor, hope, and inspiration to others.
What is your favorite genre to read?
I enjoy children’s books and have a wonderful collection. I lean toward Mystery and Fiction, however, it usually depends on my mood or interest at the time.
What is one of your fondest memories of growing up in WNC?
Hiking and camping in the mountains. My love of nature and the outdoors was ignited in the Blue Ridge Mountains. My parents were hippies, and we would spend countless hours, days, and weeks exploring the creeks, mountains, and trails in this area.
Read more about the new Executive Director announcement in our press release - click here.
The Power of Vocabulary
Exposure to new words at a very young age plays one of the MOST important roles in developing a robust and wide vocabulary and building strong language and literacy skills.
Research shows that while word attack skills and letter–word identification at the beginning of first grade are strong predictors of reading comprehension at the end of first grade, vocabulary was the best predictor of reading comprehension at the end of 2nd and 3rd grades.
Knowledge of many different words contributes to:
How to Make a Vocabulary Jar
Does your child's face fill with dread when you mention practicing "vocabulary?" You're not alone. Learning new words can feel overwhelming for young kids sometimes, but "vocabulary practice" doesn't always need to be monotonous flashcards and daunting worksheets. Enter . . . the vocabulary jar!
A dedicated vocabulary jar that lives in your home encourages children to regularly learn and practice new words along with their definitions.
1. Pick out words your child needs to learn - remember to use high-frequency words as well as fun, wild words.
2. Cut up paper big enough on which to fit the words (one word per piece of paper).
3. Have your child write out the word and its definition and decorate the paper (repeat this step with each word).
4. Fold up each paper so they can fit in the jar and place the jar in an easy to access place in the house.
5. Start a new tradition with your child where they pick a word out of the jar and practice it with you! Maybe it's every morning when they wake up, every night when they go to bed, or every time you head out to the car.
Tips for practicing vocabulary words:
Don't let the fun stop with the jar! Once your child has learned a new word, make it an active part of every day - use the word in regular conversation with them, play the word in a game like Scrabble or Boggle, you name it!
Read to Succeed Asheville/Buncombe (R2S) is a local, independent nonprofit on a mission to close the