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Best app for children learning to read

“Best app for children learning to read” is a high accolade indeed, but there is absolutely no doubt that the Me Books and Ladybird Classic Me Books – Penguin Books educational apps for preschool and school children deserves the title.

Storytelling has always been a big part of our lives, whether it’s Grandpa telling (completely made up) stories about his friend Simaon the Goan Monkey, Mum relishing the beauty of Julia Donaldson’s books, or Dad reading Now We Are Six snuggled with the kids on the sofa. We’ve downloaded a few good audiobooks for the car, but with our 4 year old daughter learning to read we’ve been looking for something she can listen to more actively, and begin to read some books independently. Everything we’d tried was met with the child equivalent of “Meh” and soon abandoned.

Earlier this year, we had the immense pleasure of discovering The Land of Me, a brilliant educational game for young children. Months later, our children are still asking to play Land of Me every day – an absolute rarity, as most modern toys and games are quickly forgotten. So when its producers, the London-based Made in Me team, mentioned their new app for iPad and iPhone, I leapt at the opportunity to try it out.

The idea behind Me Books is simple – take our favourite classic books for children and non-gruesome versions of fairy tales and app-ify them. Easy peasy. Like Kindle for kids, right? Ah, well if you’ve ever witnessed the layers of rich interactivity and child-led learning opportunities on Land of Me, you’ll know that the Made in Me team couldn’t just upload some stories and leave it at that.

Me Books takes reading to a whole new level, and is a shining example of both the huge potential of the iPad in supporting learning and of the joys of storytelling.

Take the Cinderella story for example – being a big Disney Princess fan this is one of my daughter’s favourites. There is a sweet little ritual to it. She sits at the kitchen table, opens the iPad and props it up on her own, carefully folding the protective cover. She skims past Daddy’s Huffington Post apps and other “boring adult games” and loads Me Books at the touch of a finger. She carefully looks at all the book covers in the Me Books visual library, and chooses the Cinderella story.

Best apps for kids - Me Books - child using Me Books on iPad

Depending on her mood, she will either flip through the pages, looking at the illustrations and trying to recognise words she has been learning at school, or make full use of the interactive features.  Touching the screen on any given page, she’ll listen to a narration of that page, and touch areas of the illustrations to hear the sound effects and dialogue. I can tell from the contented smile spreading slowly across her face that she feels incredibly empowered being able to flip through a story on her own, and loves it.

Best App for kids learning to read - Me Books 1
Illustrations in the interactive Cinderella Me Book

Now here’s where it gets reallycool.

Touching the page for a little longer, my daughter and I can edit the narration or the sound effects, and even create new hotspots for additional sound effects. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it is to play the story back with my daughter’s own “clip clop clip clop” for the horse-drawn carriage, and how nice it is to have the whole story narrated in my own voice.

Best App for kids learning to read - Me Books 2
Inside an educational Me Book

With The Zoo, also included with th eLadybird Classic Me Books  app, we’ve been adding silly new sound effects for the various animals, much to my preschooler’s delight. Now that my daughter is officially Learning to Read (oh yes, it merits capitals) at Big School, I’ve been recording over some of the words with phonics instead of straightforward narration or sound effects. For example, rather than saying “Monkey”, I might say “mmm-oh-nnn…” – you get the picture!

Best App for kids learning to read - Me Books 3
How to use the interactive features of your Me Book

We haven’t ventured down the translation path because we thought that might confuse my daughter at this stage of her reading, but I do know that some other bilingual families with pre-reading age kids have been recording new narrations in their mother tongue. I’m intrigued, especially as I can guarantee I won’t be finding any Ladybird books narrated in Quebecois French any time soon, and am looking forward to trying some homemade Montrealais recordings on my littler one.

It’s nice knowing that you can really let loose and get creative, and reset the book at any time to go back to the actors’ narration.

So it must cost a million, right?

Absolutely not. The Me Books app will set you back a whole… well, nothing. Yes, that’s free, and that includes some books to get you started.

From there, you can build your very own collection of children’s books, including classic fairytales, Topsy and Tim stories, Peppa Pig books, and some excellent non-fiction books. My daughter’s favourite is Dinosaurs, and she’s spent hours on end creating her own sound effects and narration. The individual books cost £1.99 each and are worth every penny.

So there you have it –

Me Books get a super massive thumbs up from the Really Kid Friendly team and our mini reviewers for creating this fabulous app. Easily 5 stars. 

Download Me Books for iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch


Ladybird Classic Me Books - Penguin Books


Written by Janis P.


  1. The Land of Me Iphone App looks amazing. My little girl is only 2 so haven’t even thought about downloading something like this but now I’ve seen it I think I might. She loves her bedtime stories and takes great pleasure in choosing books for me to read to her. The other night though she went to her Dad’s books and picked Bob Dylan song lyrics!

  2. We love Toca Tea party. An adorable little app. The Thomas & Friends interactive books are a big hit too.

  3. My favourite IPhone app for kids is iplay&sing, it’s really helped my little girl learn to write numbers and letters as they have to trace over them on the phone and also helped her recognise them with the games within the app, she loves it and it’s fun. Also downloaded the ladybird app and think this is great, she was shocked when she heard the voice reading the story was daddy as we had recorded him 🙂

  4. My favourite educational app is First Words Deluxe by Learning Touch. My two year old son absolutely loves it. From 18 months, he has been able to drag the letters into place, with a little help. Now, at two, he can do it by himself, and he has learned so many letters while playing this game. Best of all, he is learning them in context. Over six months after we first introduced it to him, he still looks to play it regularly, and he’ll happily play it for 15 or 20 minutes at a time – a long time for a toddler!

  5. We like ” Fish School ” because it’s just right for starting to learn shapes and letters,and it’s FUN

  6. Math Board – Math problems appear and you can work them out by hand on the virtual chalkboard. A great advantage of this app is the wide age range it caters for. The only slight drawback is the absence of a “fun” element for the more reluctant learner – however, there are other apps which are suitable in that case.

  7. Our fave app books are Dr Suess – The Lorax, The Sneeches, etc. Great sound effects and it reLly brings the story to life. These sound great. Are they too young for a 7 year old?

    • Jen, we love the Dr Seuss app books too. My kids like reading The Cat in the Hat, and gosh does it bring back memories!

      I haven’t personally tried it on a 7 year old, but actually I think it would be really nice way to complement what they’ve been learning at school, and a great solution for some chill out time. The stories themselves aren’t babyish – they are good old fashioned fairytales like Cinderella, 3 Billy Goats Gruff, etc, so you can adapt for any age.

      Pretty sure they will *love* recording themselves and making more sophisticated use of the hotspots than my 4 year old can manage. I think it would be neat to use it as a prompt for a script of sorts – they can record some creative dialogue and sound effects to go with the illustrations. Try it out & let me know!

  8. My favourite iPhone app is Lingo Zoo (by Mindshapes). My 3 year old loves this because it has puzzles in it that promote spatial awarenes and coordination, and it also teaches Spanish, all while having fun! Jack and the Beanstalk is a pretty close second, though!

  9. not that educational, but I am a huge fan of the Crayola App for iPad, its a lot of fun.

    Another great couple for iPhone are slice it (which teaches about splitting shapes) and Geared which helps learn puzzle solving and creative thinking.

  10. Dot to dot numbers and letters is a great iPhone app. My 3 year old will happily go through the -you guessed it-joining the dots numbers/letters puzzles over and over again.. You can set the difficultly level also giving them more of a challenge as they progress.

  11. My kids love abc Pocket Phonics. Helps with learning to write and identifying shapes.
    And there’s a free version which has loads of sounds and words for the kids to learn.

    Looking forward to getting into the Land of Me, sounds fabulous

  12. My favourite educational apps(for toddlers) are SoundTouch and Tozzle! SoundTouch is great for picture recognition, especially in the latest version where you hear the name of the object not just the sound. Tozzle is fab for spatial awareness and also teachers letters.

  13. My favourite educational kids app is Farmerama. The kids have to plant the crops, feed the animals and generslly run the farm. An excellent app for teaching where food comes from.

  14. I love the grasshopper apps on the iphone my son loves them all, he has a little folder full of them on so he just clicks on which one he wants to play 🙂

  15. I am looking forward to the apps when my hubby gives me an ipad on xmas day (with a bit of subtle hinting) but my girls play on my mums and they love wordsearch and hangman style games.

  16. I’ve got some brilliant apps on my iphone + ipad for my little ones! I love the ‘My Very First App’ which is based on The Very Hungry Caterpillar and it’s basically a matching and memory game app with different levels of difficulty. She loves the Wheels on the Bus app as well – she can swish the wipers, spin the wheels and sing along. I also love the First Words: Animals app and Spot Goes to School! Brilliant apps for any little one!

  17. i don’t have ipad or iphone yet (hoping santas going to be nice) so haven’t tried apps but after seeing this i definately want to try the app you have listed. Anything that improves my childrens reading has a thumbs up for me x

    • That’s a shame (but fingers crossed Santa brings you something nice)… you should try out the Land of Me – it’s fabulous, and you can download it for PC or Mac, i.e. your actual physical computer. While there isn’t a big push on reading, it’s great for getting your kids speaking in a more descriptive way, which in turn helps them organise their thoughts, tell stories, and ultimately write!

  18. My favourite iPhone app is Spot Goes to School, so nice as usually a book looses the flaps with toddlers but this way the element of suprise actually stays for longer than five minutes lol.

    Also a fan of My Very First App as we love The Very Hungry Caterpillar book here! Nice to have a more interactive version which also has different levels so all the kids can have a try.

    Thanks for some greats ideas 🙂

    • Ha ha, so true! With our Spot, Wibbly Pig and Buster lift-the flap books, the actual flaps disappeared long long ago. I have to put my hand on top of the pictures and let the kids lift my hand.
      Will be downloading it for iPhone!!

  19. my favourite iphone app is eflash english (baby flash cards). Flashcards available in lots of different categories. You can choose to just look at the objects and get your child to identify them, you can get the (American) voice to tell your child what the objects are and you can even do a quiz game on it. It’s great for keeping your child entertained….and teaches them too. Other languages are available too. The best part? It is available for free!!!

  20. For my family it has to be the IBooks app. So easy to use, I can choose so many books, both for myself and children. The childrens book our usually greatly illustrated. Hours of fun with books at our finger tips. It nice to read the other guest comments, given me great idea for future play!
    Good luck everyone @LondonBirdLucy

  21. My son is 21 months old and he loves ‘Nighty Night!’ by Shape Minds and Moving Images. It teaches him animals, noises, light on & off . You basically go to each of the lit rooms / sheds on the farm and say goodnight to the animals and switch the light off. It also means when its finished he knows its his time for bed! A lovely App.

  22. My favourite app when @smallgirltweets was a baby was Bab Bab by Babytoi. It was a fab little app like a cross between a rattle and a kaleidoscope and it would really distract her at times I needed a break! Now she’s a Big Schoolgirl her favourites are the Dr Seuss apps – great because she can have it read or try to read it herself – and all of the Toca Boca apps. The new ‘Store’ one is particularly educational as its about buying and pricing things and we have great fun role playing too. We’ve just downloaded The Zoo and I’m really looking forward to trying out the hotspots. The only downside isy phone is no longer my own…

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