Free reading resources

Free Reading Resources for ALL AGES

Table of Contents

Reading development is something that looks completely different for young students and older students, but everyone should have access to the assistance they need. When educators discuss reading resources, most of them are focused on students between the ages of 4 and 9. During this phase of reading education, students are learning how to read. After third grade, the focus shifts to reading for understanding. Just because students are older, it does not mean that they need less support in reading. In this article, we will discuss different websites and resources for readers at all stages of reading.

5 Stages of Reading Development

Noted early childhood education theorist Jeanne Chall lays out her 5 stages of reading development in this way:

Stage 0. Pre Reading: Birth to Age 6. The Pre-reading Stage covers a greater period of time and probably covers a greater series of changes than any of the other stages (Bissex, 1980). From birth until the beginning of formal education, children living in a literate culture with an alphabetic writing system accumulate a fund of knowledge about letters, words, and books. The children grow in their control over various aspects of language—syntax, and words. And they gain some insights into the nature of words: that some sound the same at their ends or beginnings (rhyme and alliteration), that they can be broken into parts, and that the parts can be put together (synthesized, blended) to form whole words.

Stage 1. Initial Reading, or Decoding, Stage: Grades 1-2, Ages 6-7. The essential aspect of Stage 1 is learning the arbitrary set of letters and associating these with the corresponding parts of spoken words. In this stage, children and adults internalize cognitive knowledge about reading, such as what the letters are for, how to know that bun is not bug, and how to know when a mistake is made. This stage has been referred to pejoratively as a “guessing and memory game,” or as “grunting and groaning,” “mumbling and bumbling,” or “barking at print,” depending on whether the prevailing methodology for beginning reading instruction is a sight or a phonic approach. The qualitative change that occurs at the end of this stage is the insight gained about the nature of the spelling system of the particular alphabetic language used.

Stage 2. Confirmation, Fluency, Ungluing from Print: Grades 2-3, Ages 7-8.6. Essentially, reading in Stage 2 consolidates what was learned in Stage 1. Reading stories previously heard increases fluency. Stage 2 reading is not for gaining new information, but for confirming what is already known to the reader. Because the content of what is read is basically familiar, the reader can concentrate attention on the printed words, usually the most common, high-frequency words. And with the basic decoding skills and insights interiorized in Stage 1, the reader can take advantage of what is said in the story and book, matching it to his or her knowledge and language. Although some additional, more complex phonic elements and generalizations are learned during Stage 2 and even later, it appears that what most children learn in Stage 2 is to use their decoding language, and the redundancies of the stories read. They gain courage and skill in using context and thus gain fluency and speed.

Stage 3. Reading for Learning the New: A First Step. When readers enter Stage 3, they start on the long course of reading to “learn the new”—new knowledge, information, thoughts, and experiences. Because their background (world) knowledge, vocabulary, and cognitive abilities are still limited at this stage, the first steps of Stage 3 reading are usually best developed with materials and purposes that are clear, within one viewpoint, and limited in technical complexities. This is in contrast to Stage 4 where multiplicity of views, complexity of language and ideas, as well as subtleties of interpretation are expected.

Stage 4. Multiple Viewpoints: High School, Ages 14—18. The essential characteristic of reading in Stage 4 is that it involves dealing with more than one point of view. For example, in contrast to an elementary school textbook on American history, which presupposes Stage 3 reading, the textbook at the high-school level requires dealing with a variety of viewpoints. Compared to the textbooks in the lower grades, the increased weight and length of high-school texts no doubt can be accounted for by greater depth of treatment and greater variety in points of view. Stage 4 reading may essentially involve an ability to deal with layers of facts and concepts added on to those acquired earlier. These other viewpoints can be acquired, however, because the necessary knowledge was learned earlier. Without the basic knowledge acquired in Stage 3, reading materials with multiple viewpoints would be difficult.

Stage 5. Construction and Reconstruction—A World View: College, Age 18 and Above. When Stage 5 is reached, one has learned to read certain books and articles in the degree of detail and completeness that one needs for one’s purpose, starting at the end, the middle, or the beginning. A reader at Stage 5 knows what not to read, as well as what to read. To reach this stage is to be able to selectively use the printed material in those areas of knowledge central to one’s concern. Whether all people can reach Stage 5 reading, even at the end of four years of college, is open to study.

Chall, Jeanne. 1983. Stages of Reading Development. New York: McGraw Hill. pp. 10-24.

The FREE websites and resources shared in this article will help you assist readers at every stage of reading development.

Online Resources

ABC Mouse: Ages 2-8 years old

The Step-by-Step Learning Path presents the full curriculum in a carefully designed program of more than 850 lessons in ten levels. As the student completes each lesson, he or she is guided to the next one and is motivated to continue learning by’s Tickets and Rewards System.

The Reading Curriculum Includes:

  • Uppercase and lowercase letter recognition
  • Phonics
  • Rhyming words and word families
  • More than 450 books and beginning readers
  • Sentence structure
  • Parts of speech’s reading curriculum spans the entire range of early reading, from learning the names of each letter and the sounds they represent to being able to read books, starting with a few words on a page and gradually advancing to paragraphs.

The curriculum for first grade also includes writing and language skills, such as sentence structure and punctuation, parts of speech, and practice with writing genres.

Between the Lions: Preschool – First Grade

Between the Lions, Early Reading Collection was produced by WGBH Education and WGBH Digital in collaboration with Mississippi Public Broadcasting. Funding for this project was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The video resources focus on:

  • Book and Print Awareness
  • Language and Vocabulary Development
  • Letter Knowledge Awareness
  • Phonological Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Fluency
  • Text Comprehension
  • Vocabulary

Teachers also have the option to develop lesson plans using their site and resources.

CommonLit: Grades 3-12

CommonLit is a nonprofit education technology organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, especially students in Title I schools, graduate with the reading, writing, communication, and problem-solving skills they need to be successful in college and beyond.

This site provides teachers with all the resources they need to set their students up for success, while also encouraging best practices in the classroom. The CommonLit Literacy Model is built on a foundation of over 2,000 high-quality free reading passages for grades 3-12, complemented by aligned interim assessments, growth-oriented data, and expert-led teacher development.

Dogo News: Grades K-12

Dogo News offers a variety of content covering current events, sports, science, technology, and more. Each article is kid-friendly and contains links to definitions of words students may find complicated. Content is searchable by grade level or category and includes links to relevant national standards. The content can be utilized by teachers or individual students depending on their ability. Dogo News makes current events easy to access for use in the classroom.

Epic: Grades K-5

Epic is the leading digital reading platform—built on a collection of 40,000+ popular, high-quality books from 250+ of the world’s best publishers—that safely fuels curiosity and reading confidence for kids 12 and under. Use Epic for read-alouds, literacy centers, research projects, and creating custom collections. The right books at the right level—plus extra support with tools like Read-To-Me and Dictionary Look-Up. Epic School is free for educators and students with class code login access from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. when school is physically in session!

ReadWorks: Grades K-12

As a FREE supplemental resource, ReadWorks provides K-12 educators with the largest, highest-quality library of curated nonfiction and fiction passages in the country, along with interactive vocabulary supports, text-dependent question sets, teacher guidance, and more! Most importantly, everything ReadWorks provides is based on the science of reading.ReadWorks passages and their curricular supports align with the reading comprehension knowledge and skill goals of the Common Core State Standards and many individual states’ standards. ReadWorks, as a supplemental resource, supports this development of successful, joyful reading comprehension in four key ways:

  • Build background knowledge
  • Grow Vocabularies
  • Increase reading quantity
  • Strengthen strategic reading

ACT: Grades 8-12+

ACT’s work over the past six decades to help individuals understand their current readiness and see the areas where they need to improve has helped millions of students and career professionals define and achieve success. ACT provides students with multiple FREE test prep materials, videos, and courses.

In Conclusion

Supporting readers at all stages of development and through all grade levels is the job of the most diligent teachers. The resources listed above are only the beginning of the resources EDGEucating has put together for our readers.  Check out Top 10 Math Tutoring Apps and Top 10 Intervention Resources for more online resources.

About the Author: Alicia Verweij

Alicia is a seasoned educator that is passionate about teaching children to think critically, problem-solve, and function in an ever-changing digital world so that they will be prepared for future careers. She’s an active supporter of new educators and is known as an innovator in STEAM education. As a teaching veteran of more than 12 years, she holds a Master of Education in Educational Leadership, a B.S. in Business Management, an Alternate Route Education Certification, and an endorsement in Gifted Education. She is an educational influencer, founder, and consultant at EDGEucating LLC.

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