Skybrary – Kids Books & Videos

Kids can "go anywhere, be anything" with vast book and video library

Learning rating

Community rating

Based on 14 reviews

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Subjects & Skills

Character & SEL, English Language Arts

Price: Free to try
Platforms: iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch

Pros: Access hundreds of videos and real books, all in one easy-to-use app on a single device.

Cons: There aren't many cons, but there could be more features that take advantage of the tablet medium.

Bottom Line: Wonderful and practical way to get kids excited about learning and reading -- the greatness of the classic TV series, updated for the 21st century.

Fill up your classroom library with one simple device! Kids can read on their own, in groups, or teachers can read books to the class. Let kids lead their own reading adventure and choose their own books, and then have them respond in some way: draw a picture, write a summary, make up a different ending. Use the video field trips to enhance science and history units. Then have kids find books that match the theme. Learning about other cultures? Have kids find a book about a holiday from another culture. This version was made for home use, so it supports up to five different accounts (on iPad only), and has limited progress data available. An educators' version that should have more helpful features for classroom use is in the works.

Skybrary – Kids Books & Videos (formerly Reading Rainbow) is a digital library of over 500 books and videos. Kids visit "reading islands" that organize books by theme (animals, awesome people, and more) and choose books to download to their "backpacks." Kids can read a book on their own or have it read to them, and each book has a few simple animations within and an associated game. Backpacks hold up to five books; when kids are done reading, they deposit their books in the return slot, just like at a library. Kids can also look at the video field trips that explore history, science, animals, and more. Videos are originals, classics from the TV series, or clips from National Geographic Kids. Grownups can search for books by author or title and see a simple report of which books kids have read and how much time they spent reading. An educator version with features uniquely useful for the classroom is in development.

The Skybrary app radiates the same sense of curiosity, adventure, discovery, magic, enthusiasm, and love of reading as the classic TV series, but is customized for the next generation in an easy-to-use app. Though holding a hard copy book in your hands will always be something special, Skybrary offers easy access to hundreds of books that are right at kids' fingertips. It's a nice touch that each book includes the front cover and title page, so reading mimics the experience of opening a real book. As in the TV series, the focus is on two themes: learning about real life (video field trips) and nurturing creativity, imagination, and a love of reading. Other aspects feel a bit like afterthoughts, such as the games and even the sticker system that rewards reading. Kids could learn more about reading independently if they could see the words highlighted as the narrator reads them.

Learning Rating

Overall Rating

Keeps the focus strictly on the joy of learning. Beloved host LeVar Burton guides kids through the app, but lets the books and the users be the stars. Promised future enhancements have us excited.


The library of titles covers a wide range of topics, spanning from holidays to music to historical figures. (Books can either be read by kids or narrated.) And the additional library of video clips from the show furthers that education.


Stickers help keep kids motivated, and parents can monitor how often their kids use the app.

Community Rating

I love the versatility of this app!

This is a wonderful app that can be effective for a variety of students. Students are able to select the books they would like to read by putting them in their virtual backpack. I have used this app in a whole group setting while streaming through Apple TV. I have also used it for a center with small groups. If you have an iPad for every student, you can have every student reading a book of their choice at the same time. One of my favorite uses was with a student who had severe behavior challenges. He loved this app, and I used it for his reward time. It was motivating for him to behave and to complete the required work needed to be able to have time on this app. Experiences with each book are scaffolded, so various levels of learners can be successful. There are short videos and games that accompany each book. The free version has limited resources. The paid version is much better.

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