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The Best Digital Libraries for Kids and Students

We rigorously tested all of the top ebook reading platforms for kids to find the best one.

Tanner Higgin | September 6, 2021

Reading is the key that unlocks learning. But all too often kids’ potential love of reading gets ground to dust during the process of reading and literacy development -- this can be especially true for kids who need extra support. These frustrations can snowball, transforming books from magical escapes into mountains to climb. And now with YouTube or Minecraft just a tap away, books have the odds stacked against them.

All of this is to say: digital library apps need to be really, really good. They’ve got to have compelling content, offer a frustration-free reading experience, and support features that make reading more accessible and delightful than a paperback. We think our choices below meet, and may even exceed, this criteria -- they have the potential to get kids hooked on books and build lifelong habits.

Our selections

Best overall: Epic!

If your goal is to help kids build a love of reading, then there just isn’t anything quite like Epic!. The user experience outpaces the competition in both its ease of use and its beauty. It’s also got an impressively large library of high-quality books -- these aren't the bargain bin picture books you'll find with some other competitors. As a result, browsing Epic! feels like a real library or store full of stuff that kids will actually want to read.

To this end, Epic! also recommends books by age as well as interest. Teachers can assign kids specific books, or even just set general themes students will like, then leave the choosing up to them. These recommendations improve as students rate and review the books they've read -- one of Epic!'s cooler features.

Teachers will love all the extras Epic! offers for extending and encouraging kids' learning -- from monthly calendars and reading challenges to badges and educational videos. There’s a ton of extra supporting content, some of it which gets updated monthly to keep things fresh. And while Epic! isn’t as accessible to all learners as something like Learning Ally (featured below), it does have a good set of core accessibility supports, including a growing library of human-voiced read-alouds (with follow-along highlighting), a built-in Merriam-Webster dictionary, and audiobooks. There are also books added regularly in Spanish, Chinese, and French as well as a growing library of books with multiple-choice quizzes.

One caveat with Epic! is that while it's free for classrooms, at-home students are limited to just one book per day. If they want to read more, their family will need its own paid Epic! Unlimited account. It’s also worth noting that Epic! isn't as transparent as they could be about their privacy practices, and you may want to take this into consideration.

Read our review of Epic!.

Runner-up (with more learning options): MyON

If you're looking for a little more learning support layered into the digital reading experience, MyON might be what you need. While it doesn’t have the polish of Epic!, or the expansive library, there are enough books to satisfy students’ interests. Most importantly, each book is paired with an impressive batch of instructional features that allow teachers to extend reading and bridge reading and writing.

While reading a book in MyON, students can annotate texts with drawing tools and highlighters, and also add notes. Teachers can review all of this work to get a sense of students’ thinking. After students are done reading, there’s a set of graphic organizers that can help structure their reflections. The final piece of the puzzle is MyON projects, where students can complete writing tasks that teachers assign to them.

All of these features place MyON in an interesting position between two poles. It’s not as pure and polished of a reading experience as Epic! and it’s not as robust of a literacy instruction tool as something like StudySync or LightSail. However, it could be the “just right” tool for those looking to balance both.

Read our review of MyON.

Other recommendations

Best for assessment: Raz-Kids

Raz-Kids has a smaller library than all of our other recommendations, but what it offers instead is a unique assessment tool that, for some teachers, could be the deciding factor. Also, with Raz-Kids students can read their books aloud, record their reading, and then send these recordings back to teachers for feedback and assessment. Students also start off with a benchmark assessment that fuels their recommended books. Once they get reading, every book features multiple-choice comprehension questions and some even have short response questions.

Read our review of Raz-Kids.

Great content: ReadingIQ

This is a newer tool that could, with enough time and further development, give Epic! a run for its money. In terms of visual design, ReadingIQ is a great looking product -- on par with Epic! -- and also features an impressive and growing library, including titles from Disney’s family of properties. This alone might make it the go-to option for some, since the familiar titles could be just the thing to motivate a reluctant reader. You'll also be pleased to know that, like Epic!, ReadingIQ is free for teachers.

Read our review of ReadingIQ.

Most accessible: Learning Ally Audiobooks

If you’re serving students with reading-based learning differences -- whether due to a physical or cognitive disability -- you’ll want to take a good look at Learning Ally. It has accommodations and tools that makes books more accessible, including fully-voiced audio and excellent (possibly best-in-class) customization of how text is formatted and presented on the screen. Best of all: it’s free for qualifying students and features an incredible library of popular books students will love. While it’s not as big of a library as the expansive Bookshare (which is very similar), the human-voiced texts set it apart -- the thousands of texts Learning Ally does have will still satisfy.

Read our review of Learning Ally Audiobooks

See everything we considered

The tools we've featured in this article are just a small slice of everything we looked at. If you prefer to do your own evaluation, find every tool we considered in our Top Picks list:

Our criteria

To help organize our evaluation of digital libraries, we looked at the following key features and functionalities:

  • Library size.
  • Book quality.
  • Student choice in book selection.
  • Representation and diversity in book content.
  • Tailoring and recommendations.
  • The dashboards for teachers and families.
  • Teachers' ability to offer assignments.
  • Accessibility and language options.
  • Extras and extensions. 

Why trust us? Our evaluation process.

Our team of editors and reviewers (all current or former educators and/or researchers) painstakingly looked at nearly a dozen digital library apps and websites for this article and narrowed down the five you see above for deeper evaluation and consideration. Each tool went through a rigorous evaluation process by both a reviewer and an editor. This involved hands-on testing (including, in some cases, in classrooms or other real-world scenarios), rating according to our research-backed 14-point rubric, communication with developers and other educators, and finally a written review. We also consulted our vast library of from-the-field reviews submitted by practicing educators. All told, each site underwent at minimum of four to six hours of testing and evaluation.

More information on our ratings and reviews.

Is there something we missed? Request a product for review.