Recommended free reading sites (& apps)

If you’re studying alone, reading is probably one of the best ways to improve your English ability.  Not only will you improve your reading speed (reading fluency), you will also improve your vocabulary and grammar from the context.  For general reading, the most important thing is to be reading content that is not too difficult.  For best results, research suggests you should be able to understand 98% of the content (that’s about 2-3 unknown words every 100). In other words, to build reading fluency, it’s better to be reading a lot of easier content than a smaller amount of more difficult content (no, you shouldn’t be using a dictionary). We call this type of reading extensive reading

Here are nine of my favorite free websites/apps to improve reading:

Rank Site Content
1 Extensive Reading Central Wide range of level-based (graded) reading content for learners. Short stories and passages on both fictional and non-fictional topics. Can also track reading quantity and speed. This site is free which makes it a valuable resource for students (at least for extra/self- study). Also has content for low-level/beginner learners.
2 News in Levels Recent news stories in English at various different levels for leaners Also includes video material. I recommend watching these without subtitles before reading story texts.
3 VOA Learning English Variety of recent English news topics (and listening) from mid-intermediate level. Interesting video content, too (my favorite is “English in a minute” that introduces idioms).
4 Baldwin online library of classic children’s books Wow. A free online library of 6,000 classic English children’s books. The subject matter can obviously be a bit shallow, but starting your reading with children’s books/nursery rhymes etc. is a great way to improve your reading in a foreign language (this is also how I learned to read in Japanese). Unfortunately the books here are not arranged into ability levels so some browsing is required to find appropriate books. Also, as they are classic children’s books some of the language is slightly dated. Also useful for young children learning English as a foreign/second language.

Continued below


Rank Site Content
5 Xreading As far as amount of reading content and range of student levels covered, this is probably the best site on this list. The content is from established graded-reader publishers so is high quality and very professional. But it’s a paid site so I haven’t ranked it as number one. Having said that, at about UDS$20-40 for a 12 month subscription, it’s very good value for money and can also be accessed easily from a smartphone or tablet. One of the few resources that is also really good for very low level learners, too.
6 An English-only dictionary/language site that also includes many interesting and up-to-date articles related to language and vocabulary. More suitable for upper intermediate-advanced level learners. Great source of lesson reading material for teachers.
7 DMM daily news Wide range of mini lessons based on recent news stories (level based)
8 DMM famous novels Mini reading lessons based on famous novels
9 Scitable Reading on recent science-related topics. The site is made for English-first-language high school students but can be useful for intermediate-advanced level learners interested in science & research. The site is produced by Nature Education (yes, connected to the famous Nature journal)


Related links:

Recommended free websites/apps for improving your listening

Try extensive reading with Pomaka graded readers