Free Reading Programs for Kids to Break Brain Drain

January 31, 2020

Kids running out of school happy to be free for summer vacation

Some children may bump down in reading proficiency after a long break—especially a holiday or vacation period! To keep the holiday slide from causing your child’s reading skills to tumble downward, books should be readily available. However, parents also can utilize free reading programs for kids; online programs combine tech with reading for kids who may put up a fight about opening a book.

According to the NWEA: “In the summer following third grade, students lose nearly 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of their school-year gains in math.” This loss of learning becomes more pronounced throughout the academic years.

Instead of draining the brain during the summer, fill the mind with new stories, concepts, and characters. Here are a few of the best free reading programs for kids:


Books on FunBrain are organized by grade level. The site includes games and other activities, too. Parents can encourage kids to brush up on their math schools via the site’s Math Zone.


This site is free and has every school subject that children might wish to explore! The English section features lessons on writing, reading, grammar and an area to learn about authors.  Kids can explore social studies, science, music, engineering and more! There’s even a section on social-emotional learning!


PBS Kids offers a range of activities for kids, and the site even includes ebooks with your child’s favorite PBS characters. While PBS Kids isn’t necessarily a ‘reading program,’ it is an educational resource that combines fun with learning.

Room Recess

It’s time for recess! Have kids head online to this site for reading games and other cool activities.

A little girl plays on the computer with an alarm clock next to it (symbolizing limited screen time)

Other Ways to Block out Break Drain

While summer is the worst time for kids to lose focus, parents may find that smaller breaks like the two weeks of winter holiday and a week-long spring break may lead to kids zoning out on screens. So how much is too much screen time?

Really, this is something that parents need to decide for their family. In today’s tech-driven world, kids are staring at screens more than ever. The screen, though, doesn’t have to be such a point of contention. Moderation is best when handling screen time, but the screen also can help kids enjoy reading and other enrichment activities.

How can parents use the screen to help block summer slide and brain drain? The sites listed above are great resources to help keep kids learning even during breaks. Check out ebooks from your local library or download books on a Kindle or reading app (like iBooks).

Of course, books are the best resources to ensure that reading levels don’t fall backward. Let kids check out books at the library or head to a local thrift store to find new titles and authors. Many thrift stores price kids’ books fairly low—you may score them for 50 cents! When kids are finished with their thrifty finds, donate them back.

Read with Kids

Whether your child likes to read online (or via an ebook) or prefers a traditional bound book, parents can enjoy quality time with their child by reading with them.

For older kids, parents can parallel read…meaning reading alongside them. Establish a family reading time and gather in the great room for a few hours of quiet time together. When kids see that parents enjoy reading, they may view the experience as a form of entertainment…instead of homework.

Parents of younger children can read to them nightly. Nightly reading time can be part of the bedtime routine. When reading to kids, be sure to talk to them about the story. Ask questions and point out key details.

When reading books on a tablet, parents can help children explore any interactive features in the book. Exploring these hidden features help bring the story to life. Not sure if a story or book is interactive? When downloading books, the description should include any interactive functions. However, parents can make all books interactive by asking children to point out key details in pictures and illustrations.

Join a Book Club

Many local libraries sponsor summer book clubs for kids to encourage reading. These programs will sometimes include a book log for kids to record their reading minutes during the summer. Prizes may be offered for kids who read the specified number of minutes (or books). Visit your local library to find out about summer book clubs or reading programs!

Before the breaks threaten to breakdown knowledge, encourage kids to engage in learning activities in between the fun of vacation days. Open a book, download an ebook, visit a learning web site and join a book club. For kids, who need more intervention or for parents who want to increase their child’s reading proficiency, try online reading programs like Readability. There are so many ways to keep learning…and to keep kids reading!