Apps and Websites to Build Literacy Skills: Top Picks from Common Sense Education

two elementary school boys using tablet computers

Browse these Top Picks to discover the best in educational apps and websites that support core literacy skills — phonics, fluency, vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, and writing. You'll also find recommendations for quality assistive technology to support kids who are struggling with reading.

Browse these Top Picks to discover the best in educational apps and websites that support core literacy skills — phonics, fluency, vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, and writing. You'll also find recommendations for quality assistive technology to support kids who are struggling with reading. All of the tools are expert-tested and teacher-approved, and regularly updated by the team at Common Sense Education.

Apps curated by Common Sense Education.


Beginning readers

Learning how to read is different for each child. Whether you're looking to help build students' phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, or comprehension, you'll find tools here that support every step of the process. Some of these apps and websites even offer diagnostic tools to help you identify and target specific areas of need as your students work to improve their reading.

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Phonics is a foundational early reading and writing skill. With this list, we've narrowed the field down to some phonics favorites, both free and paid, that help students navigate the world of words through building phonemic awareness and spelling skills. All of these tools offer engaging experiences that will  encourage them to explore words and build literacy. They also leverage the interactivity and audio-visuality of digital media, helping kids play and experiment with and listen to letter sounds. 

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From iPhone to iPad and Android tablets, these spelling apps and games are great for students. Being skilled at spelling may help improve vocabulary and reading comprehension for English language learners, knowing how to spell helps teach the parts that make up words and makes it easier to learn grammar. Check out these apps to help students learn how to spell new words by playing games, experimenting with word construction, and taking quizzes using premade or custom lists.

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These great apps and websites for vocabulary get words in front of students in engaging ways, and giving students supports to understand definitions, uses, and meanings. Use these vocabulary tools to help students build word knowledge with the tech-enabled help of audio supports, flash cards, context, and clever gameplay. There are also resources for teachers to craft activities, lessons, and assessments to keep kids' vocabulary skills on track.

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Elementary school reading

Looking for the best reading apps and websites for your elementary schoolers? These tools get kids enthusiastic about reading by helping them explore their passions as they build literacy. Whether they're analyzing leveled news stories, finding books online and connecting to other readers, or taking assessments and monitoring their growth, students will be developing much-needed skills for comprehension and fluency.

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Digital tools have expanded the range of ways students can now tell their stories. The great digital storytelling apps and sites on this list run the gamut: from traditional storybook creation tools to more recent visual storytelling and presentation tools influenced by social media and blogging. You'll find our favorites, all of which empower kids to find their unique voices as storytellers, creators, orators, and individuals.

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By getting kids writing early and often, we prepare them to succeed across all subjects. As writing abilities improve, students will be able to communicate knowledge learned and demonstrate mastery of skills. Whether they're practicing storytelling, reflecting on a prompt, or peer editing, students will be working on essential self-expression and social skills. Give your students a leg up with these great picks that'll get them writing and sharing.

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Assistive technology for reading

Many students live with challenges that limit their reading abilities. Thankfully, there's a range of apps and websites available to help kids with dyslexia, vision impairment, or other disabilities. These tools can also be useful to students who just need some extra assistance with reading fluency or comprehension. Here you'll find screen readers and text-to-speech tools as well as full libraries of texts that make text accessible to students of all abilities.

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Finding your next favorite edtech tool

By Danny Wagner, Common Sense Education

Are you overwhelmed by the number of edtech tools available? Are you unsure how to best use the tools you already love? Common Sense Education’s free Ratings and Reviews platform makes it easy to find the latest and greatest apps, games, and websites for your classroom.

What’s it all about?

Our unbiased editorial reviews are based on a research-backed rubric developed specifically to evaluate the learning potential of digital tools. The rubric evaluates three key qualities essential to great digital learning experiences -- engagement, pedagogy, and support. Our editors and reviewers are experts in edtech, scholars in child development, instructional designers, K–12 subject area experts, and school technology leaders.

The in-depth reviews focus on a number of factors that are important to teachers: price and platform, appropriate grade level, if the tools is good for learning, how teachers can use it in the classroom, and more. Along with our evaluation, we’ve welcomed teachers to submit their own star rating and a breakdown of how they use the tool in their classes.

How can I use it?

  • Search  apps, games, and websites by grade, subject, price, and more.
  • Compare our expert review to reviews submitted by teachers.
  • Access a wealth of Tips and Resources to help you use tech in your classroom.
  • Find Lesson Plans that are built around technology.
  • Learn more about protecting students’ privacy through our Privacy Evaluations.
Common Sense Education (2018)


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