Top 5 free reading websites

I’ve scavenged the interwebs and found the five best free reading websites for school use. Whether your school can’t afford the expensive online libraries or you’re simply looking to broaden your reading arsenal, these five free websites, could be worth checking out. The star score is based on four factors. How broad the target audience is, how diverse their book selection is, the amount of functional features, and the overall quality of the website.

Before we get started, here is an honorable mention: Manybooks. Manybooks contains a massive collection of old classics, categorized by genre, rating and language. The reason it didn’t make the cut, was the fact that a lot of the books are simply too hard for a lot of students in the relevant age-range. But there’s definitely some classics in there, just waiting to be rediscovered by a high schooler. Let’s get started!

5. Wattpad

2.5/5

Audience

2/5

Wattpad have the potential for a large audience, but in reality it is very narrow. It caters heavily towards teenage girls, due to the sheer amount of fanfiction and idolization. When that is said, there is a wide variety of languages to enjoy Wattpad in.

Book selection

2/5

There’s plenty of different genres to explore, such as fanfiction, paranormal, werewolf and LGBTQ+. The really good books are often locked behind a paywall though, which is unfortunate.

Features

3/5

The books generally have a picture, followed by a wall of text, with a next button at the bottom, where you also find unnecessary comments from other users. They do have a few cool features though, such as a progress bar at the top, so you can see how far you are in the chapter, and an option to let a robot read the text for you.

Quality

3/5

WattPad is fairly modern and easy to use, you don’t even need to register to start reading. The majority of the usage goes through the browse menu.
Unfortunately the content is not very regulated. Anyone can write about anything, so you often stumble across books that are not suitable for school reading.

2.5/5

Audience

2/5

Unite For Literacy is perfect for elementary and early readers. There’s also an option for Spanish books.

Book selection

3/5

There’s a lot of books, the vast majority of them are non-fiction, pretty much about anything a young learner could want. Although fictional stories also appear here and there. 

Features

3/5

The digital books are made to feel and act like real books, where you have to turn each page. There’s also a picture on every page, to help the reader stay engaged or understand what they read better. Finally, there’s the possibility for an authentic reader, to read the book for you. 

Quality

3/5

The website itself is slightly outdated, but the ease of use compensates for it’s visuals. The menu is simple, visual and straight forward.

3/5

Audience

3/5

Oxford Owl is suiting for elementary to middle school, and is only available in English.

Book selection

3/5

There’s a fair amount of books, most of them are fictional stories, but some are also non-fiction.

Features

3/5

You can skip pages with the arrow keys, finger or mouse clicks. Each book has an option to zoom in or out and be read by an authentic reader. As well as more basic stuff, like the book level and what page you are on.

Quality

3/5

Oxford Owl recently modernized the website, to make it more minimalistic, modern and user-friendly. In order to read, you need to register for free.

4.5/5

Audience

4/5

Webtoons have something for everyone. Even though some comics can be read by elementary students, they mostly cater towards middle and high school – especially cartoon and manga lovers, as Webtoon is a South Korean based company and thus heavily influenced by that style of making comics.

Book selection

5/5

Their comic book selection is big, diverse and modern. A lot of them are also on-going, which means they bring a new episode every now and then for their fans to follow. Some even manage to get adapted for screen, as a Netflix series or like.

Features

4/5

All the comics are meant to be read on a smart device, such as a smartphone, because they use a scroll-type reading method. There is options to skip pages regularly, as well as reading on a PC if you zoom out a bit. The comics also show their views and ratings, so it’s easy to find good ones.

Quality

5/5

The website is extremely user friendly, and if you want additional features, save comics and like, you can always register for free. When it comes to visuals, there’s no competition out there, Webtoon are the best by far.

5/5

Audience

5/5

Epic! can be read by everyone from elementary to high school, but have a gamified approach and book selection that mainly affects middle schoolers and below. They also have some books in Spanish, Chinese and French.

Book selection

5/5

Epic contains tens of thousands of books and comics. Anything from subject books to Adventure Time and Gumball. There’s something for everyone, at any level.

Features

5/5

The entire site is gamified, which really motivates the younger kids to read extra. They can get achievements, badges, new avatars and more. On top of that, they also have the option to quiz what they just read. Get the text read out loud, even click on words they’re not sure of and get a definition. Epic is the king of useful features.

Quality

4/5

They generally have a very high quality, unfortunately not everything is perfect. They need to earn money, and that happens after 3 PM when they require a parent to pay for a monthly service. During school hours however it’s completely free. It does require a class login made by the teacher though.

To sum it up. Wattpad is good for teenage girls, if they have a specific interest. Unite For Literacy is good for elementary readers, as they can jump right in and read, no login needed. Oxford Owl is a fine alternative to Epic, when it’s after 3 PM. WEBTOON will catch the attention of many high schoolers and Epic is the best choice overall.

If you liked the review or know of a free reading website worth mentioning, please feel free to leave a comment. Thank you!

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