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Apps and Websites that Help Early Readers Master the Five Components of Literacy

When it comes to literacy, having a good relationship with books and reading is important from an early age. Some say literacy begins in the womb, and most would agree that exposure to books, words, and stories from a pre-kindergarten age is a helpful way to give kids a running start. I have worked with both children and adults in learning centers, some of whom were late readers, and some with learning disabilities. When they had trouble connecting the right sounds to letters or applying meaning to the words they read, it would hinder the possibility of comprehension. Therefore, starting from the ground up was often needed. For all early readers, and those who are having trouble grasping the foundations of reading, it’s helpful to break down the five components of literacy to pinpoint the area that needs attention:

Phonemic Awareness - This is related to phonological awareness, in which listeners are able to hear, identify, and change phonemes (the smallest units of sound that can differentiate meaning).

Phonics - A method of teaching reading by associating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system.

Fluency - The ability to read text quickly, accurately, and recognizing words automatically.

Comprehension - The ability to read text, process it, and understand its meaning.

Vocabulary - The number of words known in a given language.

The following is a list of technological tools and resources that can help in each of these components of literacy, whether the student is having challenges or not. I have looked at a good deal of choices and advice from educators, and I have found these listed below to be economical, easy to access, engaging, and educational for early readers.

Phonemic Awareness

Hearbuilder Phonological Awareness

This application helps students improve their phonological awareness and listening skills. Students earn musical instruments and band members to create the rock band, The Phonemix, while learning to segment, blend, and manipulate sounds. It is a free application available on the iPad.

PBS Phonemic Awareness Skill Games

There are a wide variety of games to play in this program, all of which are fun, engaging, and great for practicing early phonemic awareness.



This website features a simple concept, executed very well for emerging readers. Not only can you practice saying hundreds of words and letters, this site features a facilitator who pronounces each letter, and forms each sound, so that learners can model correct mouth positions. You’d be surprised how important this is in early phonics practice.

Clifford Interactive Storybooks

Featuring Scholastic's most popular giant red dog, this site includes a number of free educational games that students can practice phonics with.


Generally, I found a few sites to offer a lot of great advice and classroom activities for practicing fluency, including Reading Rockets, and Reading Resource Net. The advice incorporates a lot of timed reading drills, and teachers can select the specific content they wish for the students to practice with. Some audiobook providers can offer the same kind of modeling of sentence structure, speed, and flow.


Kids Reading Comprehension Level 1

This iPad application costs $1.99, but features great short passages and stories, with comprehension questions to practice recall, inference, and problem solving. It allows for up to four readers, and gives great positive feedback.

Aesop’s Quest

This interactive program features a game where the player must remember details of a story in order to progress. This allows for the practice of reading comprehension in a contextualized, motivating environment.



This popular reading program features many different factors for early literacy, including common sight words. It’s never too early to show kids sight words—words that don’t play fair in the sometimes confusing English language.  

PBS Kids - Vocabulary Games

Again, PBS provides a free, quality set of interactive stories and games that will introduce new words, and give great context for learning them.

Early reading activities can give students a real advantage both at home and in school. It will prepare them for when they’re presented with more challenging material in class, or when they would simply like to enjoy more complex stories at home. There are plenty of options online and in the App stores that integrate technology into literacy education, and these are just a selection of ones I’ve found to be worth a try.


Written by Melissa Pelletier, Education Technology Contributor