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Long ‘a’, short ‘o’, silent ‘e’ - if any of these look familiar to you then you’ve probably gone through the early steps of helping your child learn to read. With so many rules and exceptions to remember, it can get a tad confusing for the little ones.  Moreover, even after learning the basics of reading, they need to master the trickier skill which is to actually retain and comprehend what they have read. Fortunately there are some truly wonderful tools available online that make both reading and comprehension easy and a lot of fun. Here are some of our top picks.

Learning to Read:

Starfall: This is by far one of our personal favorites in terms of providing the foundational tools for phonics based reading. With cute little songs, interactive stories and fun activities Starfall beautifully explains all the rules related word construction and pronunciation.  With four levels of skill it starts with the very basics of letter recognition and then moves on the helping kids learn to read by going through all the rules such as short and long vowels, sight words, two vowels and more. Short stories like Zac the Rat and Peg the Hen reinforce the rules that they’ve just learnt.  At any time if they’re stuck they can click on the word to hear it. Ability to use the mouse is important for the child to get the full benefit of the site but a lot of the material can be covered with the help of the parent initially. Once your child has mastered the ability to read, he/she moves onto the next two levels which involve interactive activities and a range of reading material from comics to fables.

ABCya!:Designated as a Great website for kids by the Association of Library Science for children, the site draws children to it with its colorful animation and easy to play games. There are a number of pre-reading games including letter recognition, upper and lowercase matching and sight word bingo -  many which can be tailored for grade levels K-5. For older kids there are cool games that test spelling as well as parts of speech. 

Roy the Zebra:  For the emergent reader this is a comprehensive site with interactive games, stories, lesson plans and worksheets.  The games are at 2 levels – Word and Sentence and cover topics such as alphabetical order, high frequency words, singular/plural, grammar and punctuation.  The Guided Reading section has short stories with guidelines on questions that can be asked before and after the story. The stories and games feature engaging characters like Roy the Zebra, Lucy the Elephant and Ryan the Rhino.   In addition, there is vast collection of excellent worksheets covering sentence correction, critical reasoning, story endings and captions and a number of other literacy focused topics.  Most of the information on the site is free but they have introduced some paid components that include reading software.

Reading Comprehension:

Read Theory:  Set up by a team of educators and writers based on University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, this website purely focuses on building comprehension skills. Content on the site ranges from that geared to elementary school students all the way to GRE levels.  In order to get started the student will need to take a placement test to determine level. Don’t worry if the first question seems way too tough for a kid in elementary school – the difficulty level adjusts itself when the child answers the questions(correctly or incorrectly) and therefore determines the appropriate level.  While all of the content is free, there is registration that is required to access the reading material. Once that’s done, the student is shown short passages based on his/her level at the end of which questions need to be answered online.  The student gets a score at the end of the quiz and explanations are provided for the ones that were marked wrong.  It’s a process that comes close to how reading comprehension is tested in competitive exams later on and hence is an excellent training ground for building the skill.

RHL School: With an impressive collection of worksheets, this site provides all the practice material a child may need to develop reading comprehension skills.  The worksheets vary in terms of length and complexity and are broadly geared for kids in the 7-14 age group.  Some are two line sentences followed by questions to build skills in areas such as contextual meanings of words, synonyms, antonyms and drawing conclusions. Others are short passages with questions at the end to test comprehension.  The questions need to be answered offline and there is no answer key provided. Also, they are not categorized by grade or level of difficulty, so you may have to sift through the material to find the appropriate one for your child. These minor irritants aside, the website has a wealth of material across different topics all available for free.

For more tips on reading, check out our articles Toys and Tools to Help your Child Learn to Readas well as some of our favorite books in Classic Favorite Books to Read with your Kids. You can also find useful websites and apps on Reading, Math, Chess and Music in our Online Resources section.

Visit our Learning Store to shop for books, educational toys, DVDs, and workbooks.

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