Top 5 free literacy education websites for young children

Check out this list of very easy to use websites with many different literacy activities for various abilities. Learn what they’re good for, how to make the most of them and what to look out for.

  1. Topmarks

Features: it’s very easy to navigate through this site as on the home page you have a drop-down menu to enter the age group, the subject and a search bar to look for anything really. You can also just click on the subject in the side bar and then narrow your search down. It’s a directory helping you find a wealth of great activities for free either by directing you to other websites or their own activities and games. They also have seasonal games and activities up, which link to most subjects of the curriculum.

Great for: Literacy and phonics activities such as Alphablocks (animated alphabetic letter characters singing rhymes and building words for the early stages of reading from 3 years onwards), DoorwayOnline (offers a great letter and number formation platform you can customise to your reader’s ability, e.g. choosing letters, lower or upper case etc.). OxfordOwl (apart from a great resource for books in general they offer a storytellers video section with tips for reading with your reader), and general links to animated traditional tales like Jack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, the Three Little Pigs.

Consider this: For most of these activities to be functional you need to have Adobe Flash Player installed. Some activities are not tablet-friendly, which is indicated on the website. It can take time to scroll through all the activities, if you’re not familiar with them or you’re not looking for one in particular. It would be handy if there was a section for learning targets for each activity, but at times you’ll just have to test the activity first.

  1. BBC Schools

Features: this website offers great literacy activities and resources especially for emerging readers and learners. You can find rhyming activities, word building and spelling activities and fantastic and wonderfully animated nursery and traditional rhymes. The animations are very child-friendly and sometimes also show the words used at the bottom to sing or read along. For learners with English as an additional language (EAL) this is also great as the animations help with memorising new vocabulary.

Great for: rhyming skills and early language acquisition also for EAL children, emerging readers for learning letter sounds and building simple words, advanced readers for spelling, practising trickier letter sounds, phonemes and digraphs.

Consider this: It’s not always clear which literacy skills the activity is particularly for as is only specified by the key stage. So, you might have to take the time and test the activity first to see if it’s suitable. Sometimes some of the animations don’t load properly so don’t rely on them in your lessons/ planned sessions.

  1. Phonics Play

Features: Here you can find fantastic games and activities focusing on different aspects of phonics like initial sounds, rhyming, segmenting, blending and more. It’s easy to navigate as all activities are divided into phases so you can choose the activities that suit your reader or learner best. There are also teacher and parent sections giving advice on how to use some games and activities or how to modify/adjust them.

Great for: all of these activities are great for emerging to advanced readers as they cover all phonics phases. They are easy to navigate through when playing and some are modifiable, e.g. focusing on certain letter sounds, diagraphs or phonemes.  For very young readers from 3 years old it’s advisable to have an adult accompany the activities as they might press wrong buttons or change the activity. It’s also important to support their learning and focus at this stage.

Consider this: Unfortunately, not all features are available for free, but some games and activities are. I would suggest to trial it first for free and if you find what they’re offering useful you can consider subscribing. If you don’t want to spend much on the subscription you could form a group of people to share it with, e.g. parents, friends, educators. Sometimes the volume of the sound differs in some activities so you’ll have to adjust the volume.

  1. ICT games

Features: On this website you can find fun activities and games on different topics, maths and literacy. If you click on the literacy tab you’ll see an overview of all the games available plus learning objectives for each of them and a brief summary of it. When you’re inside the game there is a step to step guide on how to use or modify the activity so it’s very straight forward.  You can also find printable literacy, maths or topic resources here.

Great for: emerging and advanced readers and learners with at least some basic phonics skills like being familiar with some letter sounds, initial sounds etc. Together with an adult these games are very engaging and can teach specific phonics skills. It’s great that they’re all modifiable and so can be tailored to the learning needs of each player. They’re very child-friendly with great animations and characters, which aren’t too distracting from the main objective.

Consider this: only advanced readers will be able to use this website independently as the set up has to be done by an adult being able to read the step by step guide and knowing their learning objectives, choosing the letter sounds they’re working with etc. You’ll need an Adobe Flash Player for these activities, but they’re all tablet-friendly.

  1. Barefoot Books

Features: this is a great resource for fantastic picture books and their animated songs. Beautiful and imaginative stories are published here from various authors targeting a younger audience aged 2 to 8 years old. I have even met one of the authors featured on here in person called Sally Crabtree and I can assure you that they all write and compose these fantastic stories and songs by themselves. The animations are created by professionals together with the authors and they also feature the words.

Great for: emerging and advanced readers and learners as these animated songs are always fun to watch and sing along to as they contain catchy and simple rhymes. They can be utilised to accompany other books or stories or to discuss topics like transport. By singing the songs and watching the animations the key vocabulary of the topic or book can be revisited and repeated, which can also help EAL children. They might also help getting not so keen readers to be more interested in stories and reading. You can find advice on guided reading and lesson ideas on this website as well as downloadable and printable activities.

Consider this: the animations can be played with one touch so even younger children can enjoy them independently. However, it is advisable to supervise the use as they might click on a YouTube link and be exposed to other related videos on that platform, which aren’t suitable.

I hope this brief guide helps you finding your way through the jungle of literacy websites out there and how to use them most effectively.

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