Review by Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2017
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Epic! - Unlimited Books for Kids

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Free, expansive digital library unlocks treasure trove of books

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • College & Career Prep
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
K–6
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (13 Reviews)

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Pros: Seemingly boundless library includes popular, well-loved authors and series.

Cons: Assessment tools are limited, and it'd be great to have multiple book styles for each book (audiobook, read-to-me, and typical solo reading).

Bottom Line: This large collection of books and videos on a wide variety of topics is an easy -- and free -- enhancement to any classroom library.

Use Epic! - Unlimited Books for Kids as you would use a library. Students can read books that interest them during silent reading or free-choice time. They can build their own collections, rate what they've read, and then report back to the teacher offline with a summary or a reflection on what they learned or liked about the book. Teachers can assign a theme (for example, biographies of important people in history) and let students find and read material on that theme. Or teachers can assign specific books based on reading level or by topic to get students investigating a particular subject or literature theme. Teachers can check on each student's progress through the dashboard. Given that this is a digital library, teachers also can project the book onto a smartboard and read to the class. After reading, follow up with related activities. Concepts of plot, theme, character development, and so on can follow a work of fiction. Historical reenactments, videos, reports, or further research can deepen learning after reading a nonfiction book.

Make sure to check out Epic!'s expansive collection of educator resources: tons of helpful stuff that's clearly made with educator input, from getting started guides to monthly themed calendars to handouts for parents to lesson plans. There are also video tutorials that go over all of the tool's key features.

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Epic! - Unlimited Books for Kids is a digital library and e-reader website and app that makes more than 25,000 children's books (with more added weekly) available at the touch of a finger. When signing up for a free educator account, teachers indicate the age of their students and a few areas of interest so that the app can target which titles to suggest. Those choices can always be changed later, and teachers can also search through the entire catalog whenever they want. Teachers can set up separate accounts for students, either by hand or by linking to a Google Classroom account. Once accounts are set up, teachers can assign books or entire collections to one or more students and track what they've read. Students sign in with a unique code to browse or read what's been assigned. Books are digital versions of actually published books, including some popular ones such as The Magic School Bus, National Geographic Kids, or A Series of Unfortunate Events. There's a built-in Merriam-Webster dictionary that's written accessibly for kids. Some books have a read-to-me option (featuring an actual, vs. digitized, voice and word highlighting), while others are only for traditional solo reading. There are also books available solely in audiobook form. Along with books are short educational videos, multiple-choice comprehension quizzes, badges to be earned, and other features to encourage engagement, customize experiences, and track students' activity. Teachers and students can sign in on an unlimited number of devices, including on a web browser. Books also can be marked for offline reading to allow students to read without a Wi-Fi connection.

Though the appeal and satisfaction of holding a physical book in your hands can't be beat, it can be costly and time-consuming to build and maintain a library -- not to mention that it takes up a lot of precious space! Epic! - Unlimited Books for Kids offers teachers an incredibly appealing (and free!) compromise with its huge collection of high-quality, high-interest book titles (including titles in Spanish, French, and Chinese). The library is, in fact, so big that it can be overwhelming at first to navigate it. Areas of interest and search fields can help narrow things down, but it may take a little getting used to to figure out how to find exactly what you're looking for. Options for assigning single titles or entire collections allow teachers to help students narrow down and focus. And reading level or age markers on each book help match students with books that challenge them where they need it. The quiz feature is a cute addition, but with only a few multiple-choice questions, it's a fairly surface-level assessment tool. Though it's great to have different reading options, those options are not usually within the same title. That is, it can sometimes be frustrating to find a book you want to read and discover that it's only available as an audiobook. Yet, there's enough here to really make Epic! - Unlimited Books for Kids an invaluable addition to any classroom library -- not to mention that it's free for educators.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

With lots of topics and reading levels, students should easily find books that interest them and fit their needs. Customizable libraries encourage students to form their own collections of books that they love.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Books cover lots of ground from fiction picture books, comic books, and chapter books to nonfiction on animals or historical figures. Each book has a reading level and/or age range to help match students to age-appropriate material.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The catalog supports a variety of student backgrounds and reading levels. There are videos, audiobooks, read-to-me or read-alone titles, and Spanish-, French-, and Chinese-language books. A teacher dashboard tracks reading.


Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Tammy A. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Sangaree Elementary School
Summerville, United States
Fabulous Source for Literature!
EPIC! is one of my favorite teaching tools. It is an inexpensive (free) way to increase the number of books in my classroom. I love that I can create book collections to share with my students. The Read-to-Me texts are helpful for my non-readers/low level readers. Students are excited to use this app for their free reading time. My students do enjoy watching the videos. While, I do not mind some video watching, I do have to teach expectations for when it is okay to watch videos and when it is not. I ...
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