Reading Apps to Keep Kids Engaged During Independent Reading

January 13, 2020

A grade school boy reads a book on a tablet

We can’t say it enough: READING SHOULD BE FUN! Yes, kids should be reading 15 minutes (or more!) each night, and most schools also stipulate nightly reading minutes as homework. However, the push for more reading often makes kids see books as a chore.

Stories aren’t to be dreaded; they should be discovered and enjoyed. Today’s kids thrive on technology, and, even though many parents often find themselves waging war with screen time, devices can be a virtual ticket to reading fun.

There are so many reading apps that parents can use to encourage kids to read. These apps are often a win/win situation, as the vast number of e-book titles gives kids a bit more control over what they read. Plus, downloading books can feel like downloading games or music, and the experience of accessing digital content satiates the tech appetite for many kids. Some ebooks are even designed to be a uniquely interactive experience–with auditory and visual components.

When your child is putting up a fight and refuses to crack open a book, try these apps and start buying/downloading their favorite stories!


Recommended by BookRiot, Aldiko is compatible with Android and iOS devices. The app contains a virtual interactive bookshelf, so kids can find the titles they want quickly. Even better? Lots of the book titles are FREE!

Amazon Kindle

The Kindle isn’t just a device, it’s an app, too! The Kindle app lets you turn any device into a Kindle; download books from Amazon’s extensive list. Kindle also lets you listen to the story, too…which is a great feature for young readers.

Apple iBooks

Like the Kindle, Apple iBooks lets you download books from a variety of authors. There is a large selection of free titles, too.

Reading A-Z

This program isn’t free, but, if your child’s school has a subscription, you may be able to access the program at home.  Many kids have unique log-ins, but, again, your child’s teacher would have more info.

Amazon Free Time Unlimited

This app is subscription-based, but it opens a virtual door to thousands of books, movies and shows.  There are a variety of plans offered, but if you just have one child and are a Prime customer, the service costs less than $3 each month.

A tablet rests next to a stack of books in a library; illustration for digital library

Are the Books Online Always Free?

While many ebooks are free via apps, lots of titles still have a price tag. If you don’t want your child racking up purchases to your account, be sure that restrictions are set in place to block unwanted downloads and charges. If an app notes that it includes In-App Purchases, make sure to check settings so that any charge requires a passcode.

Other services like Amazon Free Time Unlimited require a monthly fee. Make sure you understand the billing schedule and any additional fees related to the reading apps you purchase or download.

If you’re looking for unlimited free books, check out your local library. Many libraries offer apps, too, and you may be able to download books for free. This is a great way to keep kids reading without adding charges to your monthly budget.

A trio of kids sit on a couch looking at digital devices

Does Screen Time Count if Kids are Reading?

Monitoring screen time is good for children so they don’t miss out on other experiences—like sports, play time and other group activities. How much screen time you allow is a personal decision for each family. The American Academy of Pediatrics also has seemed to back away from defining screen time daily limitations for older children and instead “recommends that parents and caregivers develop a family media plan that takes into account the health, education and entertainment needs of each child as well as the whole family.”

However, the AAP still issues guidelines for toddlers and preschoolers noting that digital media should not be used for younger toddlers (those less than 18-24 months of age). In addition, the AAP recommends that children ages 2 to 5 should only enjoy about one hour of screen time every day (and the AAP notes that this should be “high quality programming”).

And, yes, if parents are counting up hours, reading books via screen is still screen time. However, how much or how little you allow your child to use digital media is entirely a family decision. Keep in mind, though, that the blue light from screens may interfere with a child’s sleep schedule. For this reason, avoid screen time too close to bed.

As with anything, balance is key. Children should have plenty of playtime and physical activity. Screen time also shouldn’t cause a child to lose sleep or avoid healthy eating habits.

Do Reading Apps Interfere with Readability Lessons?

If your child is using Readability, you may be curious if other reading apps will interfere with your child’s progress. All reading is beneficial to your child’s literacy growth and progress. Just be sure to download books that match your child’s reading level so that your child doesn’t become frustrated while reading independently.

If you have a struggling reader but you haven’t tried Readability, you can download the app and begin a free trial to see if the program is right for your child!