Having grown up entertaining myself without a tablet or phone by my side, I sometimes go into grumpy-old-mom mode when I see how often today's kids turn to tech when they have an idle moment. But I'm not such a progress-hating Luddite that I don't appreciate the benefits our smart technology has for children. For example, you can supplement the literacy skills they learn at home and school with one of the best reading apps for kids.
As we know, reading is both a vital life skill and a source of endless joy and information. It's considered such an important part of child development that the American Academy of Pediatrics urges parents to begin reading to children from infancy on, according to The New York Times. Now, it seems, smart technology may play a role in improving children's reading and academic skills. Researchers working in economically disadvantaged areas of Africa have found that children who were given tablets with literacy apps scored better on reading-preparedness tests than children without the tablets.
No one's suggesting that kids spend all of their free time swiping over letters and playing phonics games, of course. And nothing will ever take the place of the cherished bedtime-story ritual. But for parents who want to give their children a little extra reading boost (or who want an alternative to standard video games), here are some parent-recommended apps worth downloading.
1. Endless Reader
Endless Reader, free with in-app purchases, iTunes
Beginning readers can master sight words with this award-winning app. When they assemble interactive puzzles correctly, a picture of the object or concept ("dog," "up," etc.) appears. The app also uses sentence puzzles to teach the context of the words.
2. Wonster Words
3. Pocket Phonics
Pocket Phonics, $7, iTunes
In addition to teaching letter sounds and blends, this app for kids 4 to 7 has a handwriting feature and a series of 43 books for various reading levels, with read-along captions to make reading easy and fun.
4. Dr. Seuss' ABC
What reading experience would be complete without the good Doctor? This interactive app uses the familiar alphabet book in read-to-me and independent-reading formats. Before long, your preschooler will be able to follow along from Aunt Annie's alligator to the Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz.
5. Super Why! Power to Read
Leave it to the venerable PBS to create a, well, super reading app. Using the familiar TV characters, kids learn letters, phonics, rhymes, writing, and reading comprehension; for instance, in Super Why's Story Saver, users have to find the right word to complete sentences and finish the story.
6. Starfall Learn to Read
Using phonics to build reading fluency, Zac the Rat guides early readers through movies, songs, and activities. Parents will appreciate the fact that the app was created by a family of teachers, and that the activities all support state educational standards nationwide.
7. Second Grade Reading Comprehension
Second Grade Reading Comprehension, free, iTunes
Early grade-schoolers need to become proficient not only in reading, but in understanding the texts they read. This app offers a number of quick stories to read, each with its own set of comprehension quizzes and vocabulary builders. Abitalk also has many other learning apps for kids from toddlers to teens.