I thought it was time for another list of Websites Of The Year.  This series of “The Best of…” posts will be continuing off-and-on until I run out of useful topics.

This time I’ll be listing what I think are The Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers.  In the future, though, I’ll be doing one focusing on Intermediate and Advanced Readers.  Next week I will also develop a list of the best sites that are particularly appropriate for older English Language Learners, since most of these sites are designed for younger people.  I have to say, though, that both my high school students and their parents are pretty unanimous in saying they like the sites on this list, too.

The sites on this list can be helpful to Beginning and Early Intermediate English Language Learners, as well as to younger native-English speakers.

Many of you probably won’t find many surprises on this list — most are well-known.   But one or two might be new-to-you, and it might be helpful to just have them all in one place, too.

I believe one of the best ways for people to learn to read is to provide them with accessible and high-interest text.  All these sites (except for one)  have “talking stories” that show images and provide audio support to the shown text.  The images and audio provide a high-degree of accessibility.

These sites fit the “high-interest” criteria by the large quantity of stories they provide.    They also provide countless supplemental online reading activities.

Here are my picks for the Best Websites To Help Beginning Readers:

Raz-Kids : For $100 per year a whole class can gain access to very high-quality fiction and nonfiction “talking stories” with follow-up online exercises.  Families in our home computer Family Literacy Project used this program and love it.  It works well for us, too, since we can track people’s reading progress online.  You can access five free samples to try it out.  Older students might find this site particularly engaging.

Story Place is from the Public Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.  It has a number of excellent interactive and animated talking stories and follow-up activities.

Literactive.  It has hundreds of talking stories and other interactive activities.  It’s free, though you have to register (it only takes a minute to do so).  My students really enjoy this site. A word of caution, however: sometimes the site doesn’t work very well when you try to register.

Starfall. Starfall has been helping people learn to read for years, and it’s still the best.  Its scaffolding is great, and its stories — both fiction and nonfiction — are engaging.  I’d particularly recommend its I’m Reading section for older students.

(I’ve added Tar Heel Reader to this list.  You can read my post about it here)

Another site I want to write about is an “oldie” — Storyline Online. This site has been around for quite awhile, and has had celebrities also reading stories. I never used the site, or wrote about it, or even added it to my website for student self-access because, as nice of a service as it was, it didn’t have closed-captions. That absence really limited its use for English Language Learners. However, I recently check it out again and, much to my surprise, though, I discovered that Storyline now offers closed-captioning with all its stories. I have no idea when they began that feature, but it now definitely makes it a worth addition to “The Best…” list.

ABC Fast Phonics is a pretty darn impressive site for beginning readers to reinforce their understanding of phonics. I’m not a big fan of explicit phonics instruction being a huge part of a curriculum, but I do make it a part of the curriculum I use with Beginning English Language Learners. I teach it in an inductive way, though, which I describe more thoroughly in my upcoming book, English Language Learners: Teaching Strategies That Work. Sites like ABC Fast Phonics, though, do offer engaging ways students can practice.

Reading Bear is a new free interactive site for teaching beginning readers through the use of phonics in a relatively engaging way. It doesn’t appear that registration is necessary, and they say it will remain free. It’s from Watch Know Learn, the well-respected and well-known educational video site.

Oxford Owl is designed as a support site for parents to use with their children and help with reading and math. It’s great activities, though, would make it a nice addition to work during the school day, too. It has tons of online ebooks that provide audio support for the text, along with interactive follow-up exercises. It has plenty of math games and even math ebooks.

Turtle Diary is designed for very young children, and its fifteen talking stories would be very accessible to Beginning English Language Learners. It has a number of other tools on the site, but the stories really stand-out. They seem to be free, though it appears you have pay to access other premium content.

Literably Is An Excellent Reading Site — If Used With Caution

Thanks to a tweet from Barbara Sakamoto, I learned about site called Unite For Literacy. It has over one-hundred simple books in English that the reader can choose to have narrated in English or their choice of many other languages.

6 great online reading resources for ESL learners from Adam on Vimeo.

New “Open eBooks” App Unveiled By White House Looks Like A HUGE Benefit To Students & Schools

Scholastic has quite a few Listen and Read books.


Thanks to Aaron Douglas on Twitter, I learned about a nice collection of online stories (including audio support) for Beginning English Language Learners. They’re from Bow Valley College.

Making learning to read accessible and fun with Bolo is from Google, and talks about an app for Android to help beginning readers.


Global Storybooks Portal has multilingual storybooks.

Kids can learn at home with Read Along by Google is from Google.

“Simbi” Looks Like An Excellent Reading & Speaking Platform For ELLs & Others



Loving2Read has over one-thousand books that appear to have been written specifically for the site.  They are very accessible.  They don’t have audio yet, but the site says that’s in the works.

Footsteps 2 Brilliance offers a number of bilingual (English/Spanish) “talking books” for early readers (and ELLs). Students just have to go to the site and click on one of the book covers.

The World Stories Project



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