Ultimate Guide to Free Reading and Literacy Resources

Written by Carly Hallman

Encouraging young children to read helps ensure their future success in school and in life. Experts agree that students who are proficient readers in third grade are more likely to succeed throughout their school years and as adults. Most families know how important it is to read regularly to their young children. Being read to lays an important foundation for helping children learn to love to read as well as understand the fundamentals of reading. Children who are regularly engaged in conversation by the adults in their lives also have better literacy skills because they have a more varied vocabulary. The Internet offers families a wealth of resources to help children become better readers, and many of these are money-saving services that help children work on their reading skills for free.

General Reading Websites

One of the best ways to make sure that kids love to read is to give them access to a varied selection of books. It’s also important to identify areas of weakness in their reading skills and find activities to help them improve.

  • Between the Lions: PBS publishes this reading website aimed at kindergartners and first-graders. The site is kid-friendly and offers stories along with song videos to help young readers learn letter sounds.
  • Funbrain: A variety of kids’ books for a wide range of reading levels are available to read online for free here.
  • Dogo News: It’s important for kids to develop reading habits they can carry into adulthood, and learning to read news about sports, current events, and scientific developments can help to build lifelong literacy. The stories here are sortable by grade level and provide age-appropriate explanations.
  • Khan Academy ELA: Khan Academy offers reading and vocabulary courses online for grades 2 through 9.
  • Free Kids Books: This well-organized website can help parents to find books that are appropriate for their children.

Read-Alongs and Virtual Story Times

Story time is fun, and parents might sometimes think that fun things aren’t educational. But having fun keeps kids engaged, and having fun at story time can also come with important lessons. For example, singing or rhyming during story time helps kids develop their awareness of phonics. Watching adults read stories to them helps kids develop a better understanding of how books work on a physical level. Talking with kids after story time and having them summarize the story and share their thoughts can help them to practice their literacy skills.

  • Storyline Online: Actors lead the virtual story times for Storyline Online, reading from a variety of books. Here, Kevin Costner and Jillian Estell read Catching the Moon.
  • StoryPlace: Along with virtual story times, like this one for The Yellow Gorilla, this site also offers sing-alongs and other fun reading-based activities for preschoolers and early elementary-aged students.
  • Story Time From Space: Ada Lace, Take Me to Your Leader is one of the books read aloud by astronauts on active space missions available at this unique archive of virtual story times.
  • 100+ Free Video Read-Alouds: The Indianapolis Public Library has assembled an extensive archive of filmed story times.
  • Story Time at NYPL: Librarians from the New York Public Library have filmed fun, engaging virtual story times for children watching from home.

Fun Reading Games

Playing games can help young readers reinforce literacy skills like spelling, word recognition, and how letters and sounds work together. Games can also help kids become more confident readers. And many of these skill-building games are free!

  • Sir Readalot: Kids can practice skills such as drawing conclusions from context clues in this fun, free game.
  • Letter Recognition Games: Learning to differentiate between uppercase and lowercase letters and understanding what they represent are vital early literacy skills.
  • Suzy Sloth’s Sentences: Suzy Sloth helps kids with capitalization and punctuation in this game.
  • Literature Games: Older kids will enjoy these games, which focus on different books.

Writing Your Own Stories

Learning to write their own stories makes children better readers. They learn about using words to communicate feelings and complicated ideas, and they also learn how to put their ideas in sequential order. Learning how to do this for their own stories makes them more aware of how published authors chose words and structure their stories. Writing stories is such an important skill that even the Library of Congress hosts a free series to help kids learn to write.

  • “Write. Right. Rite.” Series: Popular young adult novelist Jason Reynolds is the ambassador for this program hosted by the Library of Congress that helps students learn how to tell stories in their own voices.
  • Five-Step Writing Process for Kids: There’s a lot involved in writing other than simply getting words down on paper. The five steps of the writing process are clearly explained here.
  • Hemingway Editor: The Hemingway Editor assesses writing, checks for plagiarism, and assigns a grade-level score to the user’s work. It can also help writers identify hard-to-read passages.

Teen and Tween Readers

Middle- and high-school students also need support in growing as literate members of society. It’s key with this age to help them find reading material that interests and challenges them. It’s also important to help them continue to choose reading over the entertainment offered by their phones, video game systems, and other easily consumed media.

  • LitPick: Learning how to choose their own books is an important skill for middle- and high-school students to develop. LitPick features reviews of young adult books to help students find books to add to their own reading lists. Students can also contribute their own reviews.
  • Tween Tribune: The Smithsonian publishes this site aimed at kids through 12th grade.
  • Project Gutenberg: Middle- and high-students will love this rich array of classic works that are in the public domain. Readers are likely to find many books that are on their school reading lists as well as ones that just look interesting, and all of them can be downloaded for free.

Additional Resources

  • WorldCat: Teaching kids how to use the library is an important part of improving their literacy skills. WorldCat allows users to look up books and see which libraries around the world have them to loan out.
  • Open Library: Another great place to check out digital copies of kids’ books is Open Library, hosted by the Internet Archive.
  • Free Rice: Students can expand their vocabulary while playing this fun game and also earn rice that will be donated to people in developing nations.
  • 14 Ways to Encourage Your Grade-Schooler to Read: The adults in a child’s life have a huge influence on how well they develop as readers, and these tips can help families and teachers better support children.
  • How to Raise a Reader: The New York Times published this comprehensive guide full of ideas on how to raise children who love to read.
  • The Importance of Reading to Your Children: One of the best ways to ensure that a child develops good literacy skills is to read to them regularly.