Reading Rainbow




Classic reborn as fee-based e-library with great selection.

What parents need to know

Ease of play

The app offers a small library of books to users broken down into categories that are easy for kids to grasp. Video and other extras are easily accessible and there are well-done tutorials scattered throughout the app to explain how to use features. 

Violence & scariness
Not applicable
Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable

The app is free and comes with plenty of videos to watch and one free book, but to truly experience all the books (and upcoming promised additions) it has to offer, users must pay a $10 per month recurring subscription or $30 for a six-month subscription. 

Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Reading Rainbow offers a library of books to users, themed according to a child's interests (action adventures, magical tales, etc.). Kids can choose to have a book read aloud to them or to read the book themselves. To access more than five books, however, you'll have to subscribe to the app: $10 for one month, $30 for six months, or $50 for one year -- all on a recurring basis.

What kids can learn


Language & Reading

  • reading

Engagement, Approach, Support


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

Learning Approach

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.

What kids can learn


Language & Reading

  • reading

Kids can learn about the joys of reading -- in an encouraging and nurturing environment. Reading Rainbow offers a wide selection of books to appeal to a variety of interests as well as videos that will also appeal to a wide audience. There are imperfections (such as the app not highlighting words as they're read aloud by the narrator), but those can be corrected. All in all, we've never before seen as diverse a library offered up in a single app.

This Learning Rating review was written by Chris Morris

Kids say

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What's it about?

Children can select up to five ebooks at any time from a library of more than 300 titles to keep in their app's backpack. Like with most ebooks, kids can read the books themselves or have them read by a narrator. Books are categorized by a series of floating islands, which have a sliding list of titles. Finishing a book earns kids a sticker reward. Reading Rainbow also features mini-films covering a wide range of educational topics, and has a dashboard to help parents track what their kid is reading (and the time spent on each book).

Is it any good?


Reading Rainbow is a nostalgic touchstone for many of today's parents, so there's bound to be some concerns that the app can't live up to the landmark television program. In this case, those fears are unfounded, as it keeps the focus strictly on education and the joy of learning. Host LeVar Burton returns as a guide through the app, but lets the books and the users be the star. And the promised future enhancements, such as the "book report" feature that played heavily in the show, are another reason to get excited. Stickers help keep kids motivated, and parents can monitor how often their kids use the app.

There are a few down sides. First, the monthly subscription fee is steep. Given the large collection of books available, it's not unreasonable, but it will be a deterrence to some. Second, we'd like to see more interest areas to choose from when setting up profiles -- some kids will struggle to select three of the presented topics. And finally, we'd like to see the narration highlight words as they're read, but that's a minor quibble.

Families can talk about...

  • Parents can talk about the different subjects of each episode -- and use them as launching points for trips to the library or real-world locations.

  • Ask kids which stories they enjoy most, and find out why. Does the app make them more interested in reading?

  • Check out Reading Rainbow DVDs at your local library.

App details

Devices:iPad, Kindle Fire
Pricing structure:Free, Paid
Subscription price:$10 per month
Release date:June 19, 2012
Size:105.00 MB
Publisher:Reading Rainbow
Minimum software requirements:iOS 5.0 or later

This review of Reading Rainbow was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent of a 4 year old Written byMamakeleeh April 10, 2014

My impression of Reading Rainbow

Reading Rainbow offers a large variety of book in different subjects for different age groups for a subscription price of $9.99 a month or 6 months for $ 29.99 which is a better deal. My son is very bright but he is on the Autism Spectrum and for him, Reading Rainbow had too many distractions. The book selection is great! Going to the different islands to pick out books was more fun for him than actually reading the books. The books have animations that a child can press and watch it wiggle. I don't feel it adds to the story and for us it was a distraction. I think an ebook should book just like a paper book ( or at least have the option to turn that feature off) a lot the books had great illustrations and that ( along with the story) in it self should enough to engage a young reader. The videos are nice but there again, a distraction. If they had parent controls to turn off some of those features, I would give it 5 stars. We bought a 6 month subscription but I will not be renewing unless they make some of those changes


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