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Literacy Apps

Phonics

Phonics instruction helps children learn the relationships between the letters of written language and the sounds of spoken language. Children are taught, for example, that the letter n represents the sound /n/, and that it is the first letter in words such as nose, nice and new. We've found great apps that give kids practice with basic phonics skills, including recognizing the letters of the alphabet, learning upper case and lower case letters, alphabet matching, and word building. These apps help kids work on listening skills while also practicing spelling and building their vocabulary.

Click through our recommended phonics apps below, and follow our links for other reviews.

Quotable Quotes: The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you'll go. -- Dr. Seuss

ABC Expedition

Price: $2.99
Skill: Phonics
Device: iPad

ABC Expedition is an app designed to help children with their alphabet. However, this app not only helps kids with their alphabet; it also helps children learn various animals too. This is promised to be a fun app for both parents and kids.

ABC Song Piano

Price: $1.99
Grade level: Pre-K, K
Skill: Phonics
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

ABC Song Piano uses music to teach the alphabetic principle. This app can also tap into children's musical creativity; it is colorful and has piano keys that light up. Furthermore, this app introduces letters A-Z, objects, animal and instrument sounds. Songs are played on a variety of instruments such as the banjo, xylophone, harp, flute, bells and much more.

Alphabytes

Price: $1.99
Skill: Phonics
Device: iPad

Alphabytes is an educational app that helps kids learn their letters, the sounds letters make, how to write both upper and lower case letters, and how to spell a few words. The game has four sections: Alphabet, Trace, Spell, and Play. Trace teaches kids how to print both upper and lower case letters. The play section of the app has a memory game where kids match letters with the picture of an item that begins with that letter.

Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic

Grade level: Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 4th and above
Skill: Phonics, Spelling
Device: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Bob Books #1-Reading Magic is an educational experience that will teach your young children early phonics. This app teaches the sounds that letters make and how to combine them to make short words. Drag the letters for the given word to the proper place below the picture, while the app sounds out the letters and reads the word aloud. Children's efforts will be rewarded when the black and white screen transforms to color and the drawings become animated.

Bob Books #2 - Reading Magic HD

Price: $3.99
Grade level: Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd
Skill: Phonics, Spelling
Device: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Bob Books is an interactive book app that uses spelling, repetition, and phonics to build beginning reading skills. Each 12-page book can be played at 4 different difficulty levels — beginning readers drag and drop letters to match words while the app sounds out the letters and reads the word aloud, more advanced readers select letters on their own. Children's efforts are rewarded when the black and white illustration fill with color and become animated.

Dr. Seuss's ABC

Price: $3.99
Grade level: Pre-K
Skill: Phonics, Print awareness, Vocabulary
Device: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Other

Dr. Seuss's ABC has three levels, "Read to Me," "Read it Myself," and "Auto Play," which allows children to grow with this app. Words highlighted are read out loud when tapped, and when narrated, children can follow along with the highlighted text.

Endless Alphabet

Price: $4.99-$6.99
Grade level: Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
Skill: Phonics, Print awareness
Device: Android, iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Letters transform into living toys that voice their names. Children quickly learn that one letter works with others to build words and sentences. Another app in the series, Endless Spanish, is ideal spelling practice for both native English and Spanish speakers. (Note: Requires an Internet connection and a lot of storage space for full functionality.)

FirstWords Deluxe

Price: $4.99
Grade level: Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd
Skill: Phonics, Spelling
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

FirstWords Deluxe helps kids learn to spell words in five categories with FirstWords Deluxe: Animals, At Home, Colors, Shapes, and Vehicles. Parents can add more categories with in-app purchases. Touching the picture reveals the name of the object. As kids drag and drop letters into boxes to spell the object featured, they can practice sounding out letters with the phonics feature or hear the actual letter names as they're placed — or go all out and turn off the sound. Kids get good spelling practice while working on listening skills and building their vocabulary.

Interactive Alphabet

Price: $2.99
Grade level: Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd
Skill: Phonics
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Interactive Alphabet offers alphabet matching for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Your child can hear words, letters and phonics sounds. This app also includes a "Baby Mode." It auto advances every 15 seconds. This interactive game also teaches upper and lower case letters.

iSpy Phonics

Price: $1.99
Skill: Phonics
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Match phonic sounds with letters, through colorful illustrations, pictures and accurate pronunciation, while playing the age old game of I Spy. It provides a fun and highly interactive way to help children learn to recognize letters and their phonic sounds. iSpy Phonics allows children to match phonic sounds with letters, through illustrations, pictures, and accurate pronunciation while playing the game of I Spy.

Learn With Homer

Price: Free
Grade level: Pre-K, K
Skill: Comprehension, Phonics
Device: iPad

A learn-to-read app for kids ages 3 to 6 that incorporates drawing, voice recording, stories, songs, and more, along with more traditional phonics exercises. This app can be helpful for kids who have speech production issues and organization of language issues.

Simplex Spelling with Reverse Phonics: Lite

Price: Free
Grade level: Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd
Skill: Phonics
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Simplex Spelling Lite is designed to improve spelling and reading skills in a fun and interactive way by using "reverse phonics." Simplex Spelling Lite contains over 50 high frequency English words; it also enables students to build on each word, which goes above and beyond the sheer memorization of words. Simplex Spelling Lite enhances understanding in a variety of students as it appeals to audio, visual and tactile learners. It is a great tool to have for kids learning to spell, remedial students, or those learning English as a second language.

The Electric Company Wordball!

Price: Free
Grade level: K, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th
Skill: Phonics, Spelling
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

The Electric Company Wordball is a phonics game that integrates video clips from the TV show to teach reading and spelling. The game consists of two parts: watching a video about a letter sound or letter combination and tapping the "wordballs" with the featured letter or letter combination; then using the collected wordballs to complete words as they move across the screen. The object of the app is to teach lessons about phonics, reading, and spelling.

Word Wagon by Duck Duck Moose

Price: $1.99
Grade level: Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd
Skill: Phonics, Spelling
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Word Wagon helps kids learn about letters, phonics, and spelling with Word Wagon. Parents and kids can set it to one of four progressively harder levels: letters, phonics, and spelling of short and long words and also to display either upper- or lowercase letters. In the first two levels, kids can match the letters to form the words; in the latter two levels, there is no visual cue, and kids have to arrange the spelling of the word on their own. There is also a nice variety of word topics such as animals and food to choose from. The level of customization makes Word Wagon a good fit for kids at different skill levels.

Word Wizard: Talking Movable Alphabet & Spelling Test for Kids

Price: $2.99
Skill: Phonics
Device: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Word Wizard is the first educational app that utilizes natural sounding text-to-speech voices to help kids learn word building and spelling. Movable Alphabet help kids hear the text they wrote, as well as verify spelling using the built-in spell checker. This app has the ability to turn whatever words kids create — even words that do not exist — into spoken words. This app also consists of the most frequently used words, body parts, and family members — just to name a few.

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Dr. Joanne Meier
Dr. Joanne Meier
February 14, 2014
Start with a Book: Read. Talk. Explore.
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