As rewarding as it can be to help our preschoolers learn their ABCs, parents sometimes need a break — and thanks to technology, we can take one. There are dozens of apps and websites designed to help build preschool reading skills, and many of the best are so much fun that children won't even realize they're learning. A few of the best include:
1. The Reading Rainbow App
The television show was canceled in 2009 after 26 years on the air, but producers are hoping to reach a new generation of readers with the recently released Reading Rainbow app. The app, which is geared toward ages 3-9, engages preschoolers through storytelling and virtual "field trips," and helps to build not only the skills essential for reading success, but also an appreciation for classic children's literature.
2. The PlayTales App
With the PlayTales Bookstore app, you can create your preschooler's very own virtual bookstore by downloading interactive titles from the comprehensive PlayTales library. An autoplay option is available for children who aren't yet reading, and the illustrations and games that accompany the stories will delight readers of all ages and abilities.
Starfall.com is a free website designed to teach preschool and early elementary children to read through phonics. According to the National Right to Read Foundation, "nothing develops the quick and accurate (automatic) recognition of written words better than does proper phonics instruction" — and what better way to provide this instruction than through fun online games and activities?
4. The abc PocketPhonics App
Prefer your phonics lesson on an app? Then check out the highly praised abc PocketPhonics app. The "Lite" version (which only includes 6 letters) is free, or pay $2.99 for the complete alphabet.
ABCmouse.com is a subscription-based website that offers a full learning curriculum for toddler, preschool, pre-K, and Kindergarten. Each child gets to create his own individual character and follow a "step-by-step learning path" that includes puzzles, maps, coloring, songs, reading, math, and more.
6. The PBSKids SuperWhy App
If your preschoolers watch PBS, then you're probably familiar with the show SuperWhy. With the app by the same name, your child can play games with their favorite characters, all while practicing sound and letter recognition.
7. The Letter Writer Oceans App
With the Letter Writer Oceans app, preschoolers "swim" through the ocean to find the floating letters they want to trace. The app only includes capital letters, but is still a fun introduction to basic letter formation.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary subscription to ABCmouse.com for the purpose of review. My 4-year-old and I struggled to navigate the website a bit at first — mostly because he's never used a mouse before, and because we had to figure out which level he belonged at through trial and error. But now that we've worked through the confusion, he's enjoying it immensely, and is quite proud to get computer time like his older sister.