Resources for families: A Philadelphia literacy guide

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Dyslexia and learning disabilities


This site hosts articles by experts and parents about how to identify learning problems, help a child at home, and talk to teachers. Expert articles explain special education, IEPs, 504 plans, response to intervention, and special education support staff. Its diagnostic tool helps find articles relevant to your child’s age and learning issues.

Yale Center for Dyslexia & Creativity

This is a hub for dyslexia research initiatives, and a source of information and advocacy. It periodically conducts studies and invites participants, then provides results free as pdf downloads. A parents section provides guides for picking a school, meeting with a teacher, talking with your child, and assessing test results. It also includes stories written by parents.

Vision care

Give Kids Sight Day – Free Vision Screening

On Oct. 24, from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Wills Eye Hospital will host its annual Give Kids Sight Day, offering free vision screenings to minors. Staff are available to talk with families and will send two free pairs of glasses to any child identified as needing them. Children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Free SEPTA token for each child screened. Register at Jefferson Alumni Hall, 10th and Locust Streets.

Public Citizens for Children and Youth

PCCY offers a database of vision-care providers in Philadelphia. It includes contact information and whether the provider accepts Medicaid or CHIP, has evening and weekend hours, speaks languages other than English, and serves special needs children.

Child care


Cap4Kids compiles information about resources for families in Philadelphia. The child-care section has three additional categories: respite care, special needs child care, and therapeutic nurseries. Other topics include literacy, afterschool programs, counseling, early intervention, and parenting.

Keystone Stars

Users can search for nearby child-care facilities that have been evaluated for quality by the state. Providers get ratings from 1 to 4 stars based on teacher qualifications, training and experience, family involvement, facility conditions, and other criteria. Even a Star-1 rating guarantees that the facility complies with state child-care regulations. The website offers a detailed description of the standards required to qualify for each star level.

Child Care Information Services

CCIS of Philadelphia runs a hotline (1-888-461-KIDS) that helps parents search for child-care facilities and community resources.

CCIS also helps low-income parents obtain subsidized child care that only requires a small weekly co-pay.

United Way 2-1-1

Dial “211” to get answers to your human services questions, find information on child care as well as homework help, remedial reading help, and general literacy issues.

Literacy tips and advice

Wondering what your child’s reading level is or how you can make your home literacy-friendly? Use these resources to support your child’s literacy development.

Reading Rockets

Reading Rockets offers reading tips in 11 languages for parents with children of all ages. Target the Problem! highlights common reading problems, explains how they can be interrelated, and offers help for diagnosis and ways parents can help. The site includes FAQs on topics such as early literacy, parent engagement, comprehension, dyslexia, phonics, and decoding.

Reading is Fundamental

This trove of free literacy resources includes calendars that list activities for each day of the year for you and your child up until age 15. Alphabet learning activities, PDF picture books, game ideas, and vocabulary-building strategies are offered. A page is dedicated to multicultural literacy and resources for parents in Spanish.

Learning Ally

The service, which costs $119 per year, offers the world’s largest collection of human-narrated audio textbooks and literature, containing 80,000 books. Parents can pose questions to a support team of five experienced parents of children with dyslexia. The site has tools for parents to find certified local specialists to evaluate a child.

School District READ! by 4th campaign page

This page contains activities to help parents prepare children for kindergarten and a link to a mobile app with more resources. It connects to multiple websites that offer interactive games and downloadable audiobooks, including popular series like Clifford, in English and Spanish.

Children’s Literacy Initiative Family Resource Center

CLI’s list of downloadable content provides nontraditional advice on how to create and maintain literacy- rich routines at home. Parents can also get tips for strengthening their child’s literacy delivered to their phones. Text READINGTIPS to 292929.

Scholastic printables

Print out these free materials that are packed with activities to bolster your child’s literacy, including crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, mini writing books, and worksheets to help children set reading resolutions. For children in grades pre-K to 8.

Book recommendations

Looking for a list of classics or the next popular author or book series in children’s literature? Use these online resources to get ideas.

Free Library of Philadelphia – Early Literacy

The Library’s early literacy page has several lists of recommended reading for babies, toddlers, preschool, and kindergarten, from classics like Dr. Seuss to newer releases like Please Puppy Please, about two high-energy toddlers who meet their match in an even more boisterous puppy.

Scholastic book lists, recommendations

Find books by themes, topics, genres, accolades, and by your child’s age, grade, and reading level.

Books online and in town

These resources will provide you with texts that you and your child can download on an electronic device or access on old-fashioned paper.

Free Library: local branches, e-books for kids

The library offers free downloadable e-books and audiobooks for young readers from Overdrive, which includes a variety of books, from War Horse and Sky Raiders to Cat in the Hat and A Wrinkle in Time. Choose books based on filters such as ratings, librarian recommendations, reading levels, language, or grade level. These books are available for your tablet, computer, and phone. In addition, the main library and neighborhood branches all contain children’s sections.


This is an online collection of animated, talking picture books that teach kids the joy of reading in an engaging format. TumbleBooks are streaming media, not downloadable e-books. You need a library card and PIN number, and you can access these books on a computer with a Flash-compatible web browser.

Tree House Books

This bookstore at 1430 W. Susquehanna Ave. near Broad Street in North Philadelphia charges a “pay what you want donation” for books. Their “Words on Wheels” program delivers one free book each week to registered families in the 19121 or 19132 zip codes. They also offer weekly afterschool reading and writing programs for a $40 annual fee, which can be reduced to $20 for qualifying low-income families.

Literacy is fun

Want your children to treat reading and learning like an adventure? These resources will help build their reading and writing skills through interactive games and videos.

Book Adventure

Motivate your child to read by sending them on a reading journey. Children read suggested books offline and take interactive quizzes about the book online. The more they read and participate, the more points they get toward prizes. Check your child’s progress with this site’s “reports” feature.


A Dr. Seuss-themed world of games and activities, such as “Grow the Grinch’s Heart” and “Horton and the Kwuggerbug.” This site contains pages of parent resources.

PBS Kids

Here you can find educational and fun videos to engage your child, as well as a page of parent resources.

Kids National Geographic

Your child can spend hours on this site exploring fun facts and images and taking quizzes to strengthen their knowledge of the natural world.

Literacy in action

Want to connect with others on the literacy front? Here are organizations you can contact and events you can attend to boost your child’s literacy.

Springboard Collaborative

This nonprofit offers a five-week summer literacy program for pre-K through 3rd grade, emphasizing parent-teacher collaboration, which begins with a home visit. Teachers spend half the day teaching students grouped by reading level instead of grade level. It also features family workshops, where teachers show parents how to pick a book at their child’s reading level, and how to interact before, during, and after reading.

Philadelphia READS

This organization supports children’s literacy development through four core out-of-school-time programs: a book bank for educators, tutoring called Power Partners, a Reading Olympics contest, and Summer READS for students to help children set online summer reading goals. The website is being redesigned and will be back up in October; call 215-279-7450 for more information. The Reading Is Love program gives “on-the-go” parents short stories to read on their phones with their children in five minutes. Text “readtome” to 313131. Download the link, and choose a story to read with your child.


The Free Library’s Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program (LEAP) offers free homework, literacy, daily enrichment activities for elementary school students, and computer assistance for K-12 students. LEAP is available at every neighborhood library Tuesdays-Fridays from September to June. The website also offers online homework help, powered by Brainfuse, which connects students to tutors in English and Spanish.

African American Children’s Book Fair

This project promotes and preserves multicultural children’s books. Founded in 1992, it hosts one of the oldest and largest single-day events for African American children’s books in the country. The 24th annual fair will be 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 at Community College of Philadelphia. For information, call 215-878-BOOK.