There are a variety of phonics websites and resources online but the ones listed here really stand out from the crowd…
We haven’t ranked them in any particular order because they’re quite different from each other, but we think they are all great in their own way.
Our favourite free sites are:
Please contact us if you know of any other useful sites you think we should include here.
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This is just one section of a larger site that contains a variety of free literacy activities and some free mathematics activities too. The site is supported by the Starfall Education Foundation, a non-profit organization.
You need to pay for an annual membership and mobile app if you want to access all of the content, but there are plenty of great free resources on there so this isn’t essential. There isn’t a lot of guidance about how to use the activities on the site, but they are quite easy to get the hang of.
The Learn to Read section contains multisensory and interactive stories and games. Your child can click on different words and objects in the stories and some of them become animated. Many of the words are also sounded out phonetically for your child. Some of the games also help with spelling as your child has to choose the right letters to complete words.
Our children really enjoyed using these activities when they were learning to read. They particularly liked interacting with characters like Zac the Rat, Peg the Hen and Gus the Duck. The words in the stories gradually get more complex as you move from one story to the next which means you can move on to the more difficult ones as your child’s phonics skills improve.
We would read some of the trickier words to our children and ask them to read others that were appropriate for their phonics skills at the time. They liked to click on the words after they had read them to see if they had sounded them out correctly.
Starfall isn’t a comprehensive reading programme in its own right, but it is certainly a good way to provide variety and reinforce key ideas.
There are other free sections on the site for more advanced readers such as ‘It’s Fun to Read’ and ‘I’m Reading’. These also contain interesting and useful resources and our children found these enjoyable too.
This site contains around 50 presentations that introduce the main phonics rules using a combination of videos and interactive slide shows. The videos also help children to understand the meaning of each word, so the site improves vocabulary and comprehension alongside phonics skills, which is fantastic.
The presentations are available in several different versions. For example, words can be sounded out and blended slowly or quickly and there is an option to let the child sound out each word first before the presenter says it. There are also review presentations for each section which is really helpful.
The site was developed by Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia and is supported by a non-profit organisation. It wasn’t around when we were teaching our own kids to read, but if it had been, we would have definitely used it.
Reading Bear introduces some things in a different order than we do in our own reading programmes, and we’re not keen on the silent e section (we introduce these words as split letter teams). However, overall it’s a fabulous resource.
This award-winning phonics game is completely free to use on a PC and an app can be purchased relatively inexpensively for use with tablets.
The game is designed for children of primary school age in the UK. However, some of the activities in the Classroom Toolkit section would be suitable for using at home with younger children.
The site gives your child free access to a series of activities with a common storyline and increasing levels of difficulty.
The game was designed in collaboration with a team of academics from a UK university and it follows the same phonics strategy recommended for use in schools in England and Wales. If your child finds the first level of the game too easy, you can move them on to the next level using the parental controls.
Our youngest daughter was already reading fluently before we were aware of the programme, but we signed her up so she could try it out and she really enjoyed choosing her monster and playing the game. We think the game introduces tricky words too early, but this is common practice in many UK phonics programmes, and school-age children are likely to have encountered these words already in class.
Overall, we think this is a high-quality resource and children seem to enjoy the gaming format, but whether or not you decide to use it will depend on your attitude towards computer games for young children.
Like the other sites we’ve mentioned, Teach Your Monster to Read isn’t a stand alone phonics programme, but it’s certainly a good way of providing variety and reinforcing key ideas.
Literactive claims to be the leading provider of reading material for pre-school, kindergarten and grade 1 students available online. We aren’t able to verify this claim, but there are certainly lots of very useful free resources on the site.
Free resources from Literactive include:
- A variety of animated nursery rhymes.
- A series of levelled and animated guided readers.
- Literactive’s own phonics reading program – The Road to Reading.
- Downloadable worksheets for the Nursery Rhymes and ABC Activities.
- Interactive animated poetry.
- Learning activities for individual or whole class use
You need to register to access all the materials on the site, but this is free and quite easy to do and they don’t bombard you with emails afterwards.
We don’t think that all of the resources on the site are ideal for beginning readers; however, many of them are excellent and, overall, the site is certainly worth visiting if you’re a busy teacher or a home-schooling parent.
We’ve reviewed some of the Literactive resources in more detail for you below…
Animated Nursery Rhymes
There are more than a dozen animated versions of popular nursery rhymes on the site. They can be played with or without accompanying written words and they are very well produced. Each nursery rhyme is also accompanied by some fun educational games.
We think these animated nursery rhymes and games can be a great way of adding some variety if you are exploring rhythm and rhyme with your children.
Levelled Guided Readers
Like the nursery rhymes, these short stories are very well produced.
You can choose to have a voice reading the books automatically, or you can turn the voice off so you can read them to your child or so your child to try some independent reading.
The software also pronounces individual words if you click on them and it breaks down and sounds out some words as individual phonemes.
There are also ESL versions that can be translated into Spanish for children who speak English as their second language.
All of this is very good, and the books could certainly be entertaining for young children. However, the storylines are very predictable, and the same phrases are repeated from one page to the next.
This is intentional, and many educators view this as a positive thing. However, we’re not convinced that using books like these is the best approach for beginning readers. See our discussion of predictable and repetitive texts for more information about this.
We also think there are too many irregular/common exception words in some of the early books, and the very first book in Level 1 includes words with 4 different digraphs: ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘oo’ and ‘ea’.
This doesn’t mean you should avoid using the books altogether because young kids could get some enjoyment out of them. However, we wouldn’t recommend using them as the main source of reading material for beginners.
The Road to Reading Phonics Programme
This is Literactive’s own phonics programme and it starts with nursery rhymes and some pre-reading activities that involve sorting and matching various things.
These activities are interesting, but many have very little to do with learning to read. However, the picture match game can help to develop phonemic awareness – children have to match the initial sounds of words.
The ‘introduction to letters’ section focuses too much on letter names in our opinion. Although it’s common practice to introduce letter names early in some schools, these are much less important for reading than knowing the letter sounds. And teaching letter names early can also be counterproductive for spelling.
See our article ‘Should I Teach My Toddler Letter Names’ for more information about this.
The section on CVC words spells words such as ‘man’ with letter names, which isn’t really phonics because the letter names don’t correspond to the sounds in the words.
Also, some words such as ‘am’, ‘at’, ‘an’, ‘not’ and ‘on’ are described as sight words even though they are regular and can be read very easily using basic phonics knowledge.
There are some good activities in The Road to Reading, but we think it would be better to select some of the individual learning activities described below. That way, you can choose activities that fit more closely with your own reading scheme….
These are the best resources available on the Literactive site in our opinion.
There are over 100 activities to choose from and they are all animated and interactive. The activities include a variety of pre-reading, early reading and spelling games.
There’s a great range of animated interactive poetry on the site including poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Edgar Allan Poe and Edward Lear. Some of the poems also have accompanying quizzes.
Another way to access free online games and activities is to register for some of the specialist reading programmes that offer free trials.
Parents and teachers can register for a 30-day free trial with Reading Eggs. This allows you to access over 500 highly interactive games and fun animations for developing Phonemic awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary and Comprehension.
A 30-day free trial is also available from ABCmouse.com. This is a leading online educational website for children ages 2–8. With more than 9,000 interactive learning activities that teach reading, math, science, art, music, and more.
IXL Learning cover 8000 skills in 5 subjects including phonics and reading comprehension. You can click on the following link to access a 7-day free trial if you live in the US.
If you live outside of the US, you can get 20% off a month’s subscription if you click on the ad. below:
Although it’s not quite free, you can get a 30-day trial with the award-winning Hooked on Phonics programme for just $1.
There are a variety of other useful free phonics resources online and we’ve compiled an assortment of some of the best free games and activities for rhyming, syllables, phonemic awareness, letter sounds, blending and segmenting.
Click on the following link for our ‘Free Phonics and Phonological Awareness Online Activities and Games’ page to access these resources.
Note that the activities on all of these sites should be used alongside a good systematic synthetic phonics programme to get the most out of them.