At base, literacy encompasses the ability to read and write, but it’s so much more. Along with phonics, reading comprehension, and writing, critical thinking is a crucial part of literacy (and of life!). Literacy can be a challenge for many of our kids; to help build those critical thinking skills and work toward reading goals this year, our research team has compiled a list of websites and apps divided into three categories: comprehension, phonics, and writing. We’ve also indicated price, age range, and learning needs so you can easily find the resources that will work best for your family. Stay tuned for more literacy resources built for augmentative communication and text-to-speech!

A stack of books sits to the right of the frame against a white background
A stack of books sits to the right of the frame against a white background

Comprehension

  • AdaptedMind
    This website was created by graduates of Stanford, Berkeley, and Harvard in consultation with parents, teachers, and students “to improve the way children learn.” The site includes reading programs designed by teachers that have a gaming feel to make the lessons fun and engaging. If your child needs additional help, you can ask for assistance from a teacher.
    • Age range: Grades 1–6
    • Good for: Reading comprehension, sight words
    • Cost: FREE for the first month, then $9.95/month for up to 5 children. 
       
  • BrainPOP Jr.
    BrainPOP Jr. offers games and educational videos aimed at kindergarteners through 3rd grade. Their Reading and Writing Section provides lessons on vocabulary and reading comprehension across various subjects. 
    • Age range: Grades K–3
    • Good for: Emergent readers, reading comprehension
    • Platforms: Desktop, tablet, phone
    • Cost: FREE for the first 30 days via this form. Subscribing to a combination of BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. is $159/year, with other plans available from $5.99/month.
       
  • NACD Cognition Coach 
    This app, created by the National Association for Child Development, aids reading comprehension by helping build short-term and working memory, with a variety of levels increasing in difficulty. 
    •  Age range: 3–5 years
    • Good for: Emergent readers, pre-readers, reading comprehension
    • Platform: iPad
    • Cost: $4.99
       
  • ReadingIQ
    ReadingIQ includes more than 10,000 books (including popular and award-winning titles) for kids of all reading levels. The books are accessible on desktops, tablets, and phones and include picture books, chapter books, wordless stories, graphic novels, and more. The site also allows parents to monitor reading progress, and guided reading and Lexile levels are available for thousands of books.
    • Age range: Grades Pre-K–6
    • Good for: Emergent readers, pre-readers, reading comprehension
    • Platforms: Desktop, tablet, phone
    • Cost: $7.99/month, first month FREE
       
  • Starfall
    Starfall provides educational activities in language arts (reading, phonics, and English) that have proven effective in teaching emergent readers, and are widely used in schools that serve children with learning difficulties. The program was created by Dr. Stephen Schutz, who had difficulty learning to read as a child due to dyslexia and wanted to create a website with “untimed, multisensory interactive games that allow children to see, hear, and touch as they learn.”
    • Age range: Grades K–3
    • Good for: Dyslexia, emergent readers, pre-readers, reading comprehension
    • Platforms: Desktop, tablet, phone
    • Cost: Partial content available for free; membership is $35 per year for a single account for use by immediate family (including grandparents) on desktop and mobile devices.

Phonics

  • DOG ON A LOG Books
    This online database offers a variety of reading games, activities, and lessons for children with and without disabilities. The curriculum is a systematic, decodable book series written for anyone learning to read with phonics, including learners with dyslexia. There are free printable struggling reader books, game boards, and phonics and dyslexia worksheets available on the website.
    • Age range: Not listed
    • Good for: Dyslexia, emergent readers, phonics, pre-readers, reading comprehension
    • Price: FREE
       
  • Phonics Hero 
    Phonics Hero is a synthetic phonics program (the synthesizing or blending of sounds to make a word) that can help improve a child’s reading and spelling capabilities by taking them on a journey through a fantasy world with a superhero. The app contains more than 850 games and video tutorials, as well as access to educators. 
    • Age range: Not listed
    • Good for: Emergent readers, phonics, pre-readers, visual learners
    • Platforms: Desktop, iPad, Amazon Fire, Android tablet
    • Cost: FREE 7-day trial. The subscription is $36 for 6 months; if you add a second and/or third child, you can receive 50% off your subscription. Teachers can access the program for free; talk to your child’s teacher about whether they can help you get access.
       
  • Word Wizard for Kids
    This award-winning app is used by educators and parents nationwide. It offers several unique reading and spelling activities specifically tailored for children in kindergarten through 3rd grade, and helps children with spelling, phonics, and short sentence-building. 
    • Age range: Grades K–3
    • Good for: Emergent readers, phonics, pre-readers
    • Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Google Play
    • Cost: $7.99

Writing

  • Learning Without Tears 
    Learning Without Tears is a comprehensive curriculum to aid in the development of written communication skills. Currently they are offering free resources, including a Pre-K Interactive Teaching Tool (“Get Set For School”), Handwriting Without Tears, and a Keyboarding Without Tears demo. These are excellent tools for students with dyslexia, dysgraphia, and fine motor delays. 
    • Age range: Varies by resource
    • Good for: Handwriting, keyboarding, school readiness, dyslexia, dysgraphia, fine motor delays
    • Cost: Some resources are free with the creation of an account, others vary in fees to buy a yearly license for full access (Keyboarding Without Tears is $11.50/year).
       
  • Story Builder
    Designed to help children learn to write stories, this app utilizes audio clips to improve auditory processing abilities. The app is made to help kids with focus, flexibility, organization, and writing. 
    • Age range: 4+
    • Good for: Executive function, processing delay, reading comprehension, slow processing speed, visual learners, visual processing, children with autism spectrum disorder and/or sensory processing difficulties
    • Platform: iPad
    • Cost: $7.99 

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