8 Reading Apps for Kids

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I am by no means a Luddite; however, I definitely fall on the strict side of screen time for my kids. That’s not to say we never have screen time. Pizza movie night happens weekly in our home. So does increased show time whenever one of my kids is sick. 

The spectrum varies from family to family, and if ever there were a time to embrace technology, this past year has been it. We are all existing in a world where online meetings and increased screen time have become more commonplace. 

When my oldest phased out of naps and moved into a quiet time routine, I allowed her to use my phone to access her audiobooks. This was a great way for her to augment her reading without my direct assistance. Similarly, many of the preloaded apps on the school-issued iPad are geared towards enhancing math and reading skills with various learning apps. 

While there are hundreds of different “learning” apps for kids, I’ve culled through many of them and found only a handful to be truly exceptional. Some are free, some cost. Some are good for really young users (ages 3-6) and others have a longer lifespan. 

My advice? Try them out, see what works for your family and your child(ren). Want to know which paid app is my personal favorite? Read on to find out! 

Library Reading Apps (Free)

1 | Hoopla (Ages 4+)

What you should know.
Hoopla is a free digital streaming service provided by your local library. You’ll need a library card number and PIN to access Hoopla. If your library doesn’t currently subscribe to Hoopla, you can request that they purchase it for patron use. 

Why I love it.
This is a go-to for streaming audiobooks on my phone and is a lifesaver for quiet time (adults have the option to turn on Kids Mode for age-appropriate content). Similarly, I enjoy watching movies on my laptop through Hoopla, and I appreciate having access to the history of items previously borrowed. 

Hoopla limits users to a certain number of checkouts per month (this varies depending on your library), but there’s never a hold list which is especially convenient for last-minute entertainment needs. 

Pro tip: Check out the kid’s music section, as it is especially abundant with great tunes!

2 | Libby/Overdrive (ages 4+)

What you should know. 
Overdrive is another subscription platform that libraries pay for and enables their patrons to access ebooks and audiobooks. Overdrive has been around since the late ‘80s and was built for desktop use, while Libby is an offshoot of the parent company (started in the summer of 2017) and functions smoother in an app format. 

Be aware that the collection does often have long hold lines and is determined by what your library chooses to purchase. 

Why I love it.
Once Libby was released, I switched from using Overdrive almost exclusively, although I know many people prefer one over the other. Libby is a great way to input many library cards if you have both a city card and a county card or have moved around the country a lot. The most recent app update has a toggle at the bottom of the screen so that you can easily search for titles, switch between libraries, search by subject (155 different subjects to be exact), see what’s in your library, and check a timeline of recent actions. 

I love that a book will pick up where you left off even if the borrow period has expired and you choose to borrow it again a few weeks later. When a book becomes available, it is automatically added to your digital library (huge bonus), and the collection (at least for my library) is very robust.

Academic Learning Apps (Paid)

1 | ABC Mouse (Ages 3-8)

What you should know. 
This award-winning digital platform is known for its educational games and learning programs. From preschool programs through second grade, ABCMouse is ideal for early math skills, letter recognition, memory games, virtual field trips, and more. If you have an advanced learner, they will likely complete the classroom levels before age 8. 

Why I love it.
Varied voices for each task and engaging animations make the platform fun for kids. The incentive tickets (earned after successfully completing specific tasks) allow kids to shop for their aquarium, classroom, animal, and avatar. It also has an interactive dance and exercise section, which is excellent for breaking up screen time. From a pet park to a virtual race car track, the ever-expanding bilingual content is appealing for young learners.

Price: 2 Months free, then $9.95 a month

2 | Endless Reader (Ages 4-7)

What you should know. 
Word recognition, spelling, and sentence structure are the premises behind this app. With three different levels, each activity follows a three-step pattern. For example, letters scatter from a word, and a child must match the letters back into the word like a puzzle. The word is then used in a sentence, wherein certain words are scattered and must be placed back into the sentence. The sentence is then gently animated into a short story. 

Why I love it.
With Pixar-like animations and add-on reader packets like Math, Spanish, Vocabulary, and Numbers, this award-winning app is beloved by parents and kids alike and is worth the price. 

Price: $8.99-29.99 depending on bundles 

3 | EPIC! Kids’ Books and Reading (Ages 4-12)

What you should know. 
When I put a call out on social media for what reading apps families liked best, EPIC! was mentioned the most and understandably so. Many educators use this in the classroom, and my guess is if you have a child in public elementary school, they already have this downloaded on their digital devices. 

Why I love it.
Sort by grade or subject level. Skip library holds altogether and peruse the most recently published children’s books by top publishers. A “Read to Me” feature is helpful for emerging or reluctant readers, while more seasoned independent readers can track their ebook and audiobook consumption within the app itself. With a friendly user interface, it’s easy to see why this app has excellent reviews from educators and parents alike. 

Personally, I’m impressed with the high-quality images of the picture book collection. Overall, if you’re going to invest in only one app, this is my top recommendation. 

Price: Free for Educators, subscriptions range from $4.99 to $9.99 per month 

4 | Libro.fm (Ages 7+)

What you should know. 
Libro.fm is an online digital library that gives you access to thousands of audiobooks from 1300+ bookstore partners worldwide. A robust collection that is best suited for slightly older readers since (as I mentioned on this previous Thrifty Littles post) I don’t like investing in an audiobook for my kids unless it is at least 20-30 minutes long. While there is a small selection of picture books on LibroFM, it excels at the middle grade and YA genre for kids (meaning ages 7+). 

Why I love it.
Supporting independent bookstores across the world (especially after pandemic losses) is so important to me and is one of the HUGE reasons I love LibroFM. Half of my monthly fee is split with my local bookstore, which makes me all kinds of happy. Signing up is easy, and it even works as an excellent gift for teachers, friends, loved ones, you name it! 

Price: $14.99 a month for one credit

5 | Reading Eggs (Ages 3-12)

What you should know. 
Boasted as the app that will “teach your child to read,” Reading Eggs is divided into four learning programs based on age and reading readiness. Create up to four different child profiles within the app and let your child play/work at their own pace. 

Why I love it.
Placement tests allow parents and children to accurately test into their correct level, which isn’t something I’ve encountered in many other learning apps. Similarly, like many apps, this offers a bilingual Spanish lessons component. Character books and rhyming books are especially helpful for preschool-aged children. 

Price: Free 30 Day trial, then $9.99 per month

6 | Vooks (Ages 3-8)

What you should know. 
Started in 2017, Vooks is an online streaming platform that provides an ever-expanding library of mostly picture books that are gently animated and read-aloud (with closed captioning). Available in four languages, Vooks provides a free 7-day trial for home use, is always ad-free, and always incorporates music into each storybook. 

Why I love it.
Vooks excels at highlighting books for various events throughout the year (Black History, Earth Day, Latin History, and more). Most books span from 4-15 minutes, which is a great amount of time for parents to take a quick shower or sleep in a little on the weekend. The volume control within the story is also a handy feature, and it’s fun for kids to hear other kids narrate lesser-known children’s books from smaller publishers.  

Price: $4.99 a month

8 Reading Apps for Kids

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