Top literacy apps for the early years

Are you wondering how to support early literacy skills using certain learning or reading/phonics apps? Look no further! Here are some of the latest learning apps reviewed so you can decide which ones work best.

Story apps:

  • Nosy Crow have developed some lovely apps for traditional tales such as JACK AND THE BEANSTALK, LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD, SNOW WHITE, HANSEL AND GRETEL etc.

Features: interactive traditional tales where children can read along or listen to the narrative, but also have the opportunity to take part by using objects or doing actions told in the story. They personalise the story by adding photos in certain places where applicable. There’s a read out or read by myself option.

Great for: advanced readers with phonics skills acquired in reception or year 1 to read themselves or for 3-year olds who love traditional tales and are learning about rhyming, extending their vocabulary and the way stories are structured.

Consider this: it’s advisable to monitor the use of this app as especially younger children might lose focus or get confused about what to do. In order to make sure they actually understand the story an adult should accompany them and add to the narrative or answer their questions. For emerging readers, the adult can support them sounding out and blending the words or help out with trickier words so they don’t get frustrated. But the interactive aspect might be distracting for truly focused reading.

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Features: interactive rhyming stories about different types of animals. The reader can combine animals to create a new animal. The app then reads out the creature’s name and rhyme in a slow and clear way using a child’s voice. There’s a read out or read by myself option.

Great for: emerging readers to improve letter recognition, rhyming and listening skills, imagination and creativity, extending vocabulary (especially a wide variety of adjectives). Advanced readers with phonics skills such as segmenting and blending words and skills to identify trickier words and sounds such as ch, sh, th etc. They could be challenged to make up rhymes or silly words and spell them.

Consider this: these story apps are pretty straight forward and can be used by a child of 3 years and older independently. But if the focus is practising reading skills then an adult should be monitoring and supporting the reading as there are some challenging words in these rhymes. Extensions could be to make up their own creatures and compose a short verbal or written rhyme with the adult or siblings/friends.

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Combined reading and activity apps:


Features: the reader can make up their individualised narrative here with creating characters close to them. They can upload their photos and give them according features (hair, clothes etc.). The app then offers different every day scenarios and the readers can record words that are added to the narrative. They can also move objects in the story, so it’s very interactive and personal. There’s a read out or read by myself option.

Great for: emerging speakers and readers as they can add their own words. They will love that the story is about themselves and their relatives and friends as they can relate very well. They can begin to read simple and short words with adult support. Advanced readers can improve their rhyming and reading skills while adding their own content verbally and then reading it out loud as words are highlighted. This is also great for their imagination and creativity. It also allows for a basic understanding of the way stories are structured.

Consider this: the stories are told in an Australian narrative and the interactive components in between offer fun breaks from the story but can also disrupt the flow of it. Especially for new readers this can be frustrating. However, the fact that the stories are based around the readers experiences will help to maintain their focus. Adults support will be required to read instructions for emerging readers.

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Features: interactive step by step story of building a house accompanied by written simple sentences with highlighted words being read. The reader is able to manipulate objects in the app like the digger etc. There’s a read out or read by myself option.

Great for: emerging readers to improve their letter recognition, understanding of word and sentence structure and building vocabulary. Especially as the words are linked to actions the reader will execute in the app, which helps memorise those words. Advanced readers with strong phonics skills like blending and using tricky sounds and words will enjoy reading these practical sentences linked to the graphics and activities shown. Especially boys will be very interested in reading while doing and being actively involved.

Consider this: Advanced readers might find the reading here easy and their reading skills won’t be expanded. The interactive activities are engaging and help with memorising vocabulary but might be distracting from focusing on the reading.

For reference also see


Features: this app targets older children with English as an additional language to learn English and younger users learning English. It doesn’t use stories, but interactive short activities like matching words and objects, colours, numbers etc.

Great for: very targeted reading or literacy skills as the activities are focusing on different word groups and the language used is very basic. Therefore, this app is better for emerging readers as advanced readers would find this too easy. It’s also great for children struggling to create word concepts or memorising letters and words as the activities can be repeated and with adult support adapted.

Consider this: children can use this app independently, but the adult might have to choose the activities that will benefit them and their reading skills best beforehand. Some emerging readers might need adult support with reading some of the words and understanding what to do in the game.

For reference also see

Hopefully you now have a better idea about what to look for in literacy apps as there is such a wealth of them out there and you should really pick the ones you find are the best match to your needs and expectations or learning targets as well as your reader’s ability.

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