Best and Worst Reading Apps for Struggling Readers

Best and Worst Reading Apps for Struggling Readers

Parents and teachers alike have been frustrated at times when every effort to help along a struggling reader has failed.

The student knows all of the rules, knows how to put a sentence together, and is generally good at all of the other points of grammar.

But they just can’t seem to put it all together fast enough when reading, especially orally.

apps for struggling readers

So what is the disconnect?  And how do we help them to fix it?  There are tons of apps available that can help us to bridge that gap between educational tools and reading fluency.  But how do we know which ones are the best and which ones to stay away from?

I did some research on this and found some of the best as well as worst reading apps for struggling readers to become more fluent.  The standards I used were to find out which apps were the most fun for the students while still being the most educational in the fastest of methods.  Read on to find out what they are.

Best Reading Apps for Struggling Readers

Before I share the list with you, I want to share what criteria I used to determine what the best apps were.  I wanted to choose apps that:

  1. Are recognized as authoritative in helping students to learn efficiently
  2. Have substantive material to learn from
  3. The kids find fun enough to go back to on a regular basis.
  4. Show significant amounts of progress within a short amount of time
  5. Are approved by parents and teachers alike
  6. Are cost effective (most of them are free!)

So with that being said, here is what I found in the best reading apps category.  Click on the titles to find more in-depth information than I have provided.

Note:  some of the following links are affiliate links.  I may receive a small commission but you will not pay more for using those links.  In fact, I try to find you the best deal online just the same as I would when shopping within my own budget.  Everything that I link to is something that I have personally found beneficial.

Just click on the titles to learn more about each app.

1.  Epic!

Epic is a digital library that is so much more than a library.  Its tagline reads, “Instantly access 35,000 of the best books, learning videos, quizzes & more.”

Epic is designed for kids preschool up to age 12.  It has just about any topic your kids can be interested in.  It began with 25,000 books and within a couple of years has expanded to the 35,000 that it now touts.  That is some amazing growth!

You have the option to make up to 4 separate accounts.  Parents can use it for each of their children.  Teachers can use each account for a genre that they want to specialize in or for particular units they want to work on.  There are lots of different ways to use the accounts.

There are so many topics that students will be able to learn or be entertained in virtually anything they can possibly think of.  Epic even has a DIY section for them!

There are no in app purchases or ads, so your children can concentrate on what they are using the app for without distraction.

And one of the best features that I saved for last:  it is free for teachers and librarians!

Finally, this app is endorsed by Today, Forbes, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and USA Today.

 

 

Drawbacks

The only drawback that I found with Epic! is that while it is free for elementary school teachers and librarians, it is not free for parents. It is very affordable, though.  It is approximately the price of a Disney+ subscription.

NOTE:  As of June, 2020, there is now a free version that is available to parents.  It has some limitations, namely, only 2 hours of reading a week and the selection of books is very limited with no premium books available.  I will keep watching to see if that changes at all, but at least it is something for free!

Awards

Epic! has received the following awards:

  • Teachers’ Choice Award
  • Common Sense Education (top pick)
  • Mom’s Choice Award
  • Dr. Toy’s 100 Best
  • Parents’ Choice Gold Award

They have also been featured in many magazines.

And finally, it is consistently in the top 5 of the kids’ category of the Apple App Store.

2.  FarFaria

FarFaria is one of the best reading apps for struggling readers because it is such a fun app!  It has several “worlds” to explore, each one containing a certain genre of books that would be captivating for kids to read or be read to.

This app is a little different from the others that I am recommending because it is for ages 2-9, so a little bit younger than my general middle school material.  But it was so good that I had to add it in.  It would also be perfect for older special needs students.

This app is available on Amazon for free so you can’t lose.  And it has tons of advantages for struggling readers.

There are thousands of stories and songs, with more added weekly. And they are the most popular books available.  So your child will never run out of options.  Also, there is a badge system so your child will be motivated by his/her achievements.  Plus parents and teachers can monitor their students’ achievements by seeing which badges have been achieved.

Each book also has a reading level badge so that you will know what reading level your child(ren) are reading at.

What I Loved the Most

The biggest advantage of using this reading app for struggling readers is that every story has the read-with-me feature.  Thus they can follow along and learn more vocabulary, spelling, and sentence structure as they go.  This is one of the best and most natural ways to improve reading skills.  And it will bring about faster results.

One other thing that I really loved was hearing what the kids had learned about.  They would mention some random fact they had learned and when I asked them where they learned it, they would inevitably say, “on FarFaria!”

If you click on the title link above, you will see an extensive (but not exhaustive) list of titles on the Amazon listing that they have to suit every taste and lifestyle.

Drawbacks

One small drawback to the FarFaria app is that in order to get unlimited reads you have to pay a small monthly fee.  With the free version you get one free book a day.  This could be fine if you are using it to fill in some extra class time or using it for bedtime stories at home.  But if you need more than that, you will have to use the paid version.  There is a monthly fee option or a lifetime option.  And you can get some pretty valuable coupons frequently by checking their facebook page.  Also, there is no subscription required.  So if you try it and decide it is not for you, then you really are not out anything.

You can also open up a classroom or school subscription.  If your school covers those kinds of fees, then you’re golden.  But in order to get the stories on all of your students’ tablets at the same time is pretty pricey.

One more drawback is that there are no chapter books for more advanced readers.  I would love to see the makers of this app produce one that worked exclusively with chapter books.

Awards

FarFaria has received the following awards:

  • Family Choice Award
  • Mom’s Choice Award
  • BMA Summer Silver Award

It has also received endorsements from Parenting Magazine, Common Sense Media, and USA Today, among others.

apps for struggling readers

3.  Skybrary

So I really struggled with this one.  As soon as I knew it existed, I loved it to the moon and back.  If you are familiar with Reading Rainbow and LeVar Burton, this is it in an app form.  It is part of LeVar Burton’s organization, Reading is Fundamental.  In fact, it used to be called the Reading Rainbow App and was later changed to Skybrary.

It has all the charm of Reading Rainbow–the amazing books and the video field trips to reinforce the reading.

So why the struggle?  I really wanted to put it in the best reading apps for struggling readers category.  While it is reported as one of the best apps out there in terms of quality of material, there were a lot of reviews that indicated people were not happy with the way their app worked, although many of them were complaints about only one free book before they had to pay for the app.

But then when I expanded my research of the reviews I was extremely happy to see that it rated a 4.6 out of over 2,000 reviews of Apple’s App Store.

Also, the app now lets people try 5 books and 1 video field trip before paying to confirm whether they think it is a good fit.

Further, the app is endorsed by a large number of big names in education and parenting.  So for this reason, I decided to put it in the Best Apps list.

What I Loved the Most

Skybrary is a wonderfully imaginative app that has features and graphics that you just don’t find in most other apps.

It allows the children to travel in a hot air balloon to 7 different worlds that each have different interests and reading levels for the kids to choose.  They can also save items in their “backpack.”

On the administrative side, parents and teachers have access to educator created lesson plans, student reports, and teacher management tools.

New content is created weekly.

But the thing that sets this app apart from the others is the video field trips.  They are reminiscent of the Reading Rainbow tv show.  And this feature is one of the best ways to reinforce the concepts that are learned in the books they are reading within the app.

Upon its release it instantly shot up to the number one spot in the Apple App Store.  That is because all of the children that grew up loving Reading Rainbow on tv were now parents of children that would love the app even more than the tv show.

Teachers and parents have their own dashboard within the app to track student progress.

Drawbacks

Other than the less than stellar reviews on Amazon that were countered by exceptional reviews elsewhere, I couldn’t really find any drawbacks to this app.

There is the monthly or yearly fee that you have to pay beyond the 5 free books.  But when you realize the quality of the app, it is actually quite affordable.  It is just about the same price as all of the other apps but with their pool of talent and resources it easily outshines most of the other apps.  And that fact makes this not even a drawback.

Awards

Skybrary has received the following awards:

  • Family Choice Awards
  • Kapi Awards
  • Webby Awards
  • Best Mobile App Awards
  • Best App for Children and Kids Platinum Award
  • Parents’ Choice Gold Award
  • Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Winner

apps for struggling readers

Worst Reading Apps for Struggling Readers

The Adventures of Captain Underpants App

So I get that kids are entertained by this sort of thing.  And I am not necessarily against that.  But what I do have a problem with in apps like this is that they lower the bar of potential learning for the sake of keeping kids entertained rather than educated.  And this implies that education is boring and stuffy unless you are implementing these sorts of tools.

While I am sure there is a place for these kinds of apps in kids’ entertainment, I do not find it appropriate for the classroom or for trying to help struggling readers to come alongside their peers.  In fact, I feel like the material is distracting to true learning.

One  more disadvantage to this app for the purpose of reading apps for struggling readers is that there are no supporting materials to report student progress or reward systems within the app to acknowledge student progress.

As far as advantages go, if you are choosing this app as a source of entertainment for your students, there are several games within the app to back up the stories in the app.

While I could single out many more apps that fall into this category, I will leave that up to the parents and teachers to use their criteria in finding the best and eliminating the worst apps for their home and classroom.

Duh! Books Apps

These are more ebooks than apps because there aren’t really any games, projects, or progress reporting features.  They do have some interactive items to click on in the book to find out more. And they do have some good information.

But I just can’t get past the title of these.  Why use such degrading language for education and learning?  We live in a culture of boldness and rudeness over grace, encouragement, and empathy.  Especially in the area of social media, there is way to much harmful criticism and destruction of people’s humanity.  And using terms like “duh” does not really encourage empathy or support.

So for the purpose of learning humanity, empathy, and social skills in the middle school classroom and home, I would not choose this app.

Conclusion

So this is my list of the best and worst reading apps for struggling readers.  I could actually write a book with all of the apps that are available.  And even then I would have to write a book a year to cover all of the new apps being created.

But the ones that I chose as the best apps for struggling readers were the ones that seem to stand out the most and have been endorsed by the most educational experts in the field.

If you have discovered some other apps that have worked well in your classroom or family, please share in the comments!

Here are some other related articles that you may enjoy:

How to Foster a Love of Reading in Your Students

10 Excellent Techniques to Help Struggling Readers

Why We Should Read Aloud to Middle School Students

This Post Has 80 Comments

  1. heatherwriterslifeforyoucom

    This post is a really comprehensive on some really good reading apps for kids. It’s packed full of information. I have a friend who has a daughter that struggles with reading so I’ll pass it on.

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Heather! I hope it is helpful for them.

  2. Chad

    This is awesome!!!! I will check these apps for sure, they would help my nephew.

    1. Marie

      Even if he doesn’t struggle with reading, they are super fun apps! Thanks!

  3. Amber

    I will check these out! My daughter can sometimes struggle with her reading so these will come in handy.

    1. Marie

      I hope they are helpful and fun for her!

  4. Clari says,

    There are tons of apps available which is great but at the same time frustrating. You’re not sure which one works for you and so on. Thank you so much for narrowing it down for this type of app. This is very helpful.

  5. flawlessfooduk

    My daughter had Epic before, she prefers reading books over digital books though.

  6. Rupal Srivastava

    Vow this is so helpful. The other day I had a mom ask me questions regarding this, I will pass this along to her.

    1. Marie

      That is awesome, Rupal! I am glad my article is helpful!

  7. I have always been an avid reader but I can’t say the same of my siblings who struggle a bit more. Those apps will be so helpful!

  8. It is so cool to have apps that can help with reading! Thanks so much for sharing this, it will be so helpful when my nephew starts to read!

  9. Joanna

    It is known that some children learn how to read faster and are good spellers, whilst others can take their time into perfecting their reading skills. These apps sound like great aids for both parents and teachers to help develop a child’s reading capability.

  10. itsahero

    Interesting! I’ll need to download a couple of these for my 7 year old.

  11. Melanie

    What a great resource! Your input is so valuable. I wish these were around when my kids were younger but I look forward to sharing your post! I know several young moms at church who would be interested in hearing about these!

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Melanie!

  12. Leanne Wong

    This is such a great roundup of useful reading apps for kids! Especially valuable info for parents with young kids.

  13. Lyosha Varezhkina

    very useful post! you have a great coverage and I like it how you show all the sides you saw

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Lyosha!

  14. Cindy

    Great suggestions and reviews! I will definitely share these reading apps with my nieces.

    1. Marie

      Thank you, Cindy!

  15. jmaldia

    Thank you for this comprehensive post. It’s really helpful.

  16. Super Mom Picks

    I will need to check out EPIC! We are homeschooling this fall and I will be looking for a reading app.

    1. Marie

      I hope you enjoy it!

  17. Fransic verso

    I didn’t know there are this many of apps for reading. I will check them and might help my auntie with her struggle to find good reading apps.

  18. toastycritic

    I definitely would have loved this when my daughter was struggling reading when she was younger. I know it would have helped her. Although I wouldn’t have done Captain Underpants, not just because it’s a bad app.

    1. Marie

      I second the Captain Underpants sentiment, lol.

  19. Monica Y

    I love that the apps make it fun to read again, my son loved reading and winning prizes in one of those apps, so cool

  20. Aleks

    i’m stuck with reading too, so really enjoying the apps! Gonna try them out!!

    1. Marie

      I definitely enjoy playing them with my kids!

  21. Good to know there are apps like this available for those who need it. They all sound really good.

  22. cait

    this is awesome my daughter just started to learn how to read so ill have to check these out!

  23. Jessica Collazo

    Thank you for this list. I know what to avoid and what to follow. I have a toddler but it’s good to have this in mind so I can help her if she has any difficulties. I also like to know what are the best reading apps for bilingual kids because I am raising her to be bilingual.

  24. ashley

    This is a great list and something that I will definitely incorporate for my daughter

  25. melissa

    As a kid I struggled in reading. It is tough. I have a nephew that is struggling with it right now and this is a great resource for him. Thank you for writing about this. I will send it my brothers way.

  26. Daniel Sierra

    What a great list with some really good apps. My kids are just starting to read on thir own so it is great to find the perfect app so they can at least read while on their tablets!

  27. ashley

    These are some really good apps!! I will definitely keep this list for when my daughter starts to read.

  28. Heather

    I appreciate you listing the good and the bad of each. It helps to decide which is best for each of my kids.

  29. Brandy Toenges

    Thank you for sharing these resources! These will certainly be a major help with delayed reading!

  30. This is such an important post for any parents struggling with their children’s reading problems. Reading is a skill that we all need throughout our lives and anything app that can really help in gaining this as soon as possible has to be a godsend. Love how you have detailed the reasons behind your choices and I think the costs are well worth it in cases where additional help is needed.

  31. Shannon Gurnee

    This is some great information on the reading apps. I would love to check some of these out. Thanks for sharing.

  32. Maxim Dsouza

    I never knew these apps even existed. Really helpful for little students embarking on a learning journey.

  33. Piper Mortez

    This is such a great resource for parents as well as teachers. It’s hard to know what will work and what won’t without putting in some serious trial and error time. This can really save time and focus on helping students to read. Thanks again.

  34. I have never thought of these app before. Perhaps I’m not in need of that yet. But thanks for sharing! I will save this post in case

  35. Ann

    I had this kind of struggles as a kid, and i wish there were more help like this when I was a child

  36. Hayley

    Thank you for the low down on the best reading apps. I’ll definitely be utilising Epic in the future!

  37. Pati Robins

    Thank you for these ! such a great insight to know which apps are the best for our kids , my child is a teen now but im sure a lot of parents will find these useful

  38. Rose Ann Sales

    Thanks for the list! I will definitely recommend these apps to my mommy friends.

  39. Jordan Campbell

    There really is an app for everything! It made me chuckle a little that one of the apps was free for elementary school kids, but not for parents.

  40. Krysten Quiles

    SUPER helpful! My two goals for the summer is to start my nephew learning to swim and to read. Thank you for these apps!

  41. Melanie williams

    This is such a brilliant guide and I am sure that many parents will find this really useful for their kids x

  42. Jessie

    So many places talk about the good ones only, so it is hard to tell what won’t work. I appreciate you showing the good and the bad.

  43. the joyous living

    thanks for such thorough and honest reviews. i love that you didn’t just mention the positives but also included the drawbacks like for SkyLibrary. I think OverDrive also has free library books for children.

  44. This is so informative with the pros and drawbacks. Really helps to pick out the best one. We will pass this along for our niece, who will love learning through these apps.

  45. Cook Appetite

    I’m over whelmed with the options that I don’t know which book to choose,but I would go for epic or far faria since they are your top options 😊

  46. Emman Damian

    I would like my niece to try FarFaria. Seems like a fun app. I hope to download it later.

  47. Kimberky Caines

    These are some great apps to teach kids on how to read. Great review too. Gonna check this out for my niece.

  48. Elicitfolio

    Great toolset! Thank you for also calling out the not so great apps so we know which ones to avoid. Very helpful!

  49. Rosey

    These are great to help prevent summer slide too. I know kids who work over the summer do better when school begins> I’ve seen it time and again.

  50. Papa Jack

    I love reading. Like books and other reading materials. You just gave me another great idea to consider on reading. Thank you.

  51. Subhashish Roy

    Great piece of information on Apps which I am still learning about almost everyday. FarFaria is what caught my attention for the very young ones as it has the fun element to it. Plus reading material on a range of subjects.

  52. solrazo.com

    This is a good guide for kids! There are lots of apps that can be downloaded easily and it’s good thing they know which will be really useful.

  53. aisasami

    Thanks for the recommendations. I don’t teach elementary kids anymore but I keep ibn mind when I do.

  54. Elizabeth O

    In our generation now, it is for kids to learn new thing or how to read because of the helpful apps there. I’m gonna share this with my niece.

  55. World in Eyes

    well most of these are completely new for me..indeed glad you shared these with us found it so helpful and useful one..great work though…

  56. Matt Taylor

    Wow, that is so cool you took the time to try all those apps out and share the results with everyone. I am so glad there are so many reading apps available. I don’t have kids yet, but someday.

  57. Leah

    Wow, it’s great to know there are so many resources out there to help struggling readers. I think our phones get a bad rep a lot of the time (and of course they can be an issue) but knowing there are apps available to improve our skills is just an awesome use of technology. Thanks for sharing these with us!

  58. Ntensibe Edgar

    Reading apps exist, all along? My god, now I have to try out each and every one of these before I can fully get back to you on this.

  59. Yudith

    Some of apps for kids has to many pop ads. I really hate it. Some ads also is not relevant. I will check it out these apps. Thank you for share.

  60. Claudia

    This is an amazing resource. I love that you showcased the best and the worst so we know what to look for and what to avoid.

  61. Brianne

    I really love this. My son had trouble reading, and it took me so long to find something that would help him. This would have been perfect for us.

  62. Gervin Khan

    I’m getting into reading ebooks like this to enhance my reading comprehension. And now I have more options! Thanks to this.

  63. Kileen

    Thanks for sharing these app. I hate when apps have a million pop up ads, so your review has been extremely.

    Kileen
    cute & little

  64. Mayuri

    Oh My God! I was searching for reading apps and here it is. My daughter loves reading books and these Apps will be quite helpful…Thank you for the suggestions!

  65. Natalie

    Great article. Thank you for sharing all the info about these amazing apps. Really helpful.

  66. Alexis

    I didn’t know about a few of these app choices, thank you so much!

  67. Aliceee Traveler

    Nice reading your review on this. I just started reading more books online so I was searching for this.

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