Great Reading Apps for Boys

Tanni Haas, Ph.D.

Compared to girls, boys are notoriously slow at taking to reading and staying with it over time. It doesn’t have to be that way! If you want to inspire your sons to become lifelong readers, download the apps from this list of some of the best reading apps available. While I compiled the list with an eye to what would appeal to boys, these apps can also be useful to girls. The best part is that they’re all free, so download an app – or three.

ABC Alphabet Phonics 

(Available at: Apple Appstore, Google Play; Ages 3-5)

This app teaches young kids letter recognition through fun play. Three letters are shown on the screen, and one of the letters is sounded out by a narrator. The kid then has to tap the correct letter which is circled in red and, when they get it right, they’re congratulated in a warm voice. You can customize the screen to correspond with your kid’s developmental stage, including a hint displayed, choosing all lower or upper case letters, or having the letters illustrated with images. Best of all this app doesn’t require sophisticated hand-eye coordination: the letters are spaced out so kids don’t tap the wrong letters by mistake.

ABC Magic Phonics 

(Available at: Apple Appstore; Ages 3-5)

Developed by a team of educators using Montessori principles, this fun app also teaches kids letter recognition. It’s well-suited for kids with developmental delays. The letters aren’t just displayed and sounded out; they’re repeated multiple times and used in words that are rhymed.

The simplicity of the graphics is great for kids with ADD – they’re unlikely to be distracted by the graphics, but will instead focus on the skill being taught. 

Hoopla Digital 

(Available at Apple Appstore, Google Play; Ages 3+)

It’s one thing to help our kids learn how to read; it’s another to get them access to exciting reading materials. Hoopla Digital is an easy-to-use app which allows you to borrow, free of charge, several hundred thousand eBooks for readers of all ages. This app includes many comics, which boys are likely to enjoy. They can read the comics either panel-by-panel or a whole page at a time, depending on their preferences and reading abilities. All you need to access this app is a library card to your local public library. 

Khan Academy Kids 

(Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play; Ages 3-5)

This award-winning app is a comprehensive learning resource for young kids, including a huge database of reading activities. Kids can record themselves reading, either on their own or accompanied by recorded audio narration, play back the recordings, and learn from their mistakes. You can chart their progress, see if they’ve mastered certain learning goals, and have them receive extra instruction in areas where they need some additional help.  

Monkey Match 

(Available at: Apple App Store; Ages 3-5)

Inspired by PBS Kids’ Emmy award-winning literacy program, Between the Lions, Monkey Match teaches kids three important reading skills: 1) the difference between upper and lower case letters, 2) the beginning sounds of words, and 3) rhyming. It has three sections, each devoted to one of those skills.  In the “Upper- and Lowercase Letters” section, kids match uppercase letters to their lowercase counterparts, in the “Beginning Sounds” section they match images of words to their beginning sounds, and in the “Rhymes” section they match pictures of words to rhyming words. This app is a great supplement to ABC Alphabet Phonics or ABC Magic Phonics.

Newsela Student 

(Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play; Ages 3+)

This app complements Hoopla Digital by having a large library of news articles (all searchable by keyword) as well as quizzes that let kids track their learning. Most of the categories are of interest to boys, including “Money,” “Science,” and “Sports.” Each article is available at 5 reading levels, which means that as your kids become more proficient readers, they can read the same article at consecutively higher levels, learning more about their favorite topics. More than 10 million kids are already using this app.

Read with Phonzy 

(Available at: Apple App Store; Ages 3-5)

In this app, kids read out loud five simple sentences, which are accompanied by an image to help them better understand what the sentences are about. They tap and hold the microphone button while reading the sentences. The built-in voice recognition software gives kids feedback on

whether or not they pronounced the sentences correctly. If they need extra help, they can tap a help button to hear the narrator read the sentences out loud. 

Reading Racer 

(Available at: Apple App Store; Ages 6-8)

Like Read with Phonzy, this app can teach kids how to read out loud. The main difference is that Reading Racer is aimed at slightly older kids. Kids choose racer avatars, and then select reading material from more than 200 stories, jokes, and rhymes. The jokes, in particular, are meant to appeal to boys. Kids read selected pieces and get feedback from a narrator while reading. The app has two modes: “practice” and “race.” In practice mode, they read out loud without any assessment. In race mode, they’re expected to read as quickly and accurately as they can and receive feedback on their performance.

Starfall: Learn To Read 

(Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play; Ages 3-5)

Starfall: Learn To Read will help kids learn different vowel sounds. They choose from short stories with plots that center around particular vowel sounds. They read a story, get feedback on their pronunciation, and then hear it read out loud correctly by a narrator. When they complete a story, they can play related activities like fill-in-the-blanks or watch entertaining videos about the concepts taught in that story.

Starfall: Learn to Read 

(Available at Apple App Store, Google Play; Ages 6-8)

Starfall: Learn To Read will help kids learn different vowel sounds. They choose from short stories with plots that center around particular vowel sounds. They read a story, get feedback on their pronunciation, and then hear it read out loud correctly by a narrator. When they complete a story, they can play related activities like fill-in-the-blanks or watch entertaining videos about the concepts taught in that story.

Starfall: I’m Reading 

(Available at Apple App Store, Google Play; Ages 6-8)

Starfall: I’m Reading continues what kids learn in Starfall: Learn To Read, but at a higher level. The app includes more sophisticated stories and vocabulary, including comics, folk talks, and Greek myths, that appeal to boys. A great feature of this app is the AutoRead, which models fluent reading.  

VocabularySpellingCity 

(Available at: Apple App Store, Google Play; Ages 6+)

This app helps strengthens kids’ vocabulary while also improving their word retention and fluency in pronunciation. It has nine interactive words games. Each game allows kids to read, hear, and play with words, including common words that they’re likely to find in non-fiction. The app also has interactive sounds boxes, voice recordings, and animations.  Kids can also create review lists of words so they can practice them for greater retention.

Bio:

Tanni Haas, Ph.D. is a Professor in the Department of Communication Arts, Sciences, and Disorders at the City University of New York – Brooklyn College.

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