My favorite website for teaching children how to read is Starfall.com. Starfall is a (mostly) free website that focuses on teaching children to read with phonics. I started using Starfall in 2006 before my son turned one.
My kids no longer use Starfall. But I have a six-year-old and I just went back to update this post for 2019. Sure enough, Starfall has expanded its mission and it has some great new math programs that extend out to 3rd grade. I don’t really think it is true 3rd-grade math. It looks to me a bit more like early 2nd-grade math. It is far from perfect. It is not adaptive to the child’s individual learning and aptitude like so many modern educational sites and apps do. Still, I love the feel of the website and I think children are drawn to it.
The site is free but to get all the programs it costs $35 a year. It really is a steal.
Learning to Read with Starfall
I bet I spent, I don’t know, 400 hours at least, on Starfall with my four kids. My kids learned phonics well at an early age and I attribute that to Starfall more than any other website or technique to teach phonics. If you Google “learn to read” the first thing that pops up is Starfall. That should tell you something.
We used Starfall to teach my kids the alphabet and phonics at the same time. Learning phonics in a smart way is really important. Your child’s ability to identify discrete sounds and to understand and reproduce those sounds really makes learning to read so much easier and develops skills they will use throughout their lives.
What amazed me when we started phonics on Starfall is how poorly I knew phonics. This is not something we worked on in the 70s. All of my reading is pure memorization, I learned. Which makes sense because I always struggle to pronounce new words. I still have this problem but I have actually improved from teaching my kids phonics with Starfall.
Are there other good phonics apps? There absolutely are. But make sure you are getting the right information. Most phonics videos and websites are not phonically correct, especially with the letter “L”.
Starfall has free apps available for Android and iOS devices. Like the website, you can also pay $35 to get access to even more content.