Today we’re sharing our Reading Rainbow Skybrary Family review. We love this service and think you will too!
Disclosure: This review was sponsored by Reading Rainbow Skybrary Family. All opinions are my own!
Our family has been enjoying Reading Rainbow Skybrary Family for several months. We love our subscription and think you’ll love yours too!
10 Reasons to love Reading Rainbow Skybrary Family
1. Over 600 quality books
Just like the iconic television show, Reading Rainbow is about curating the best of children’s literature. We love the variety and are especially big fans of the National Geographic Kids books (pictured).
I don’t know about you, but I’ve often been disappointed by kids’ reading apps that promise a lot of great books – only to discover that they’re full of low-quality books created just for the app, or a large number of character books created to sell a television show.
Reading Rainbow has high standards, and it shows!
As a child of the 80’s, I experienced Reading Rainbow when it was a brand new television show. I loved the virtual field trips, the read alouds, and the book reviews by kids just like me.
The show itself ran until 2006, before any of my kids were born. I love that they can experience Reading Rainbow through Skybrary Family.
3. LeVar Burton
I’m not sure how this is possible, considering I am close to the big 4-0, but LeVar Burton has hardly aged. He was the original host of the television show and is still the Curator-in-Chief for Skybrary Family. He chooses new books, creates new video field trips, and manages the day-to-day operations of the business.
His enthusiasm and energy are the same as they were thirty years ago. Not surprisingly, my kids love him – as evidenced by the remark my five-year-old made upon seeing LeVar on screen, “Oh good! I like that guy.”
4. High quality virtual field trips
Honestly, this is our very favorite part of Skybrary Family. Sometimes I will tell the kids they can each choose three videos. They grab my iPad, huddle together on the couch, and enjoy choosing educational videos to watch.
Your kids can watch both new and classic videos (like the crayon factory tour pictured above).
I honestly can’t say enough good things about the high quality, high interest videos that both my kids and I love.
My kids often ask to watch videos on Youtube, and I usually say no. One reason is that they typically ask this when I am busy preparing dinner. I won’t let them use the search bar themselves, and it’s not always convenient for me to sit down and find a suitable video.
Even when I do sit down, I am not always crazy about the “suggested videos” in the sidebar, I often dislike the ads that run first, and have sometimes been disappointed in the appropriateness of the video itself.
I have complete confidence in the quality and content of Reading Rainbow’s videos. Phew!
6. Ease of Use
Here’s how it works. Kids pilot their hot air balloon through seven islands. Each island is home a wide variety of books and video adventures. When we’re connected to wifi, the kids can read any book or watch any video they’d like.
P.S. Update! Since I published this review, Reading Rainbow has updated the art of the islands, backpacks, and more so that it’s more kid-friendly.
7. (Limited) offline access
If we know that we’re going to be in a waiting room or other situation without wifi, we can store up to five books in a “backpack.” This way my kids can still enjoy them without internet access.
8. Ability to use the service on a variety of devices
Just yesterday, my big kids (ages 7, 8, 10) were watching virtual field trips on the couch as I was preparing supper. When my Three and Five came along, they wanted to join the group. But my iPad mini is too small for all of them to comfortably share.
As crying ensued, I simply logged in on my laptop, which I keep at my desk in the kitchen. My Three and Five sat down to watch their own videos while I was preparing supper.
You can use Reading Rainbow Skybrary Family on the Web, iPhone or iPad, or Kindle Fire.
9. Kids can listen to a book or read it themselves.
When kids choose a book, they can press a button that allows them to read it themselves, or press another button that lets them listen to a narrator.
When the narrator reads, the text is highlighted. Kids can even click on sparkly stars to see fun animations related to the story.
I am very impressed by the clear, expressive reading by every narrator we’ve heard.
10. Affordable price
For less than it costs to take our family out to dinner, we’ve purchased a whole year’s access to Reading Rainbow Skybrary Family. It’s just $4.99 per month or $39.99 per year.
As you can see, we’re huge fans of Reading Rainbow Skybrary Family. But to make this a balanced review, I’ll note a few improvements that I’d like to see.
I wish it had a search feature. Currently the only way to find particular books and videos is to hunt for them as you navigate through the islands.
UPDATE! Right after I published this review, Reading Rainbow added a search feature to the iOS version of the app. Hurray!
We had a few tech issues. We had times where books failed to load or where the app froze on my iPad. I hesitate to blame Reading Rainbow, however, as I have a very old iPad mini, and it’s low on memory because I (almost never) delete things. The good news is that the support team is very helpful.
I wish it had books for older kids. Skybrary Family is for kids ages 2-9. The books are too easy for my oldest two kids, who are advanced readers. The good news is that the videos hold the attention of my 3, 5, 7, 8, and 10 year old.
I wish it had more books. The truth is that we’re big readers and could never have enough books. In fact, we currently have over 100 books checked out from our local library. So even though 600 books is a lot, we’d like to see more. The good news is that Reading Rainbow is always adding new books and videos. Yay!
Try it free for a month!
You can try it for free to make sure it’s right for your family. Just mark your calendar for 29 days out so you’re sure to re-evaluate before your credit card is charged the next month.
I have a hunch that, like us, you’ll want to stay on!
I enjoyed the skybrary site. unfortunately, our kids didn’t really get into it much (7 and 8 year old boys). I tried to cancel and had problems. the website kept charging my credit card for 2-3 months after I tried to cancel. it was a fairly small charge and I didn’t expect to have to pay so much attention to whether or not the subscription stopped.
I ended up taking the matter up with my credit card company, since the skybrary site’s own cancellation process didn’t work. levar burton is awesome, but after searching the internet, it seems like I’m not the only one who has had cancellation problems.
I’m so sorry to hear about your cancellation issues! Thank you for the heads up.
OMG … I grew up watching Reading Rainbow. Is there a way to watch origional episodes tbrough the app?
Hi Cristina! The videos (virtual field trips) in the app include both new ones and “classic” Reading Rainbow videos – like a crayon factory tour, etc. It doesn’t have the book reviews given by the kids, though.
Thanks for this info! I was reading yesterday that in August they had to “rebrand” the app because they no longer had rights to use “Reading Rainbow”. So I was curious if they also lost the rights to the “classic” videos in the app too? Sounds like they were able to keep them!?!? Also, some but not all of the classic full episodes are on Amazon and YouTube. The app is a little expensive … $40/year. I’m not sure I can justify that. So I might start with the full episodes on Amazon and YouTube first. But I am glad I read about this because it has made me look for those episodes for my kids! Maybe Grandma will get us the app for Christmas!!! LOL!
Alexandrea R Gray
Is this not working anymore? I try to login and the page just have the logo. Anyone else having website issues?
Thank for catching that, Alexandra! They’ve rebranded, which means they have a different web address now. I’ll check into this, but here’s a link you can use: https://www.levarburtonkids.com/skybrary
I teach first grade. May I use this in my classroom?
Yes! You can learn about Skybrary School here: https://www.readingrainbow.com/school?_loc_iu=ecd1d30a-cf0f-4d76-b545-6981985eecd8
Maria E Rodriguez
I am intetested, but we are bilingual in Spanish. Are there materials or option for Spanish as well in their incentory?
Hi Maria! This is from Reading Rainbow’s website:
Will Skybrary be available in other languages?
We would love to expand the reach of Reading Rainbow and we’re exploring possibilities to add foreign language books into Skybrary. As of now, we have no immediate plans to translate the application itself (i.e., the user interface) into non-English languages.
Maria, you may want to look into the International Children’s Digital Library. Here you will find book sin many languages – it is free!
I have skybrary and love it! I use it on my IPad in my classroom such a worthwhile resource.
That’s wonderful to hear, Tami!
I signed up to Skybrary tonight. OH it is so awesome. Can’t wait for my grandsons to use it. They both love books and this is going to be great for them throughout the summer. Thank you so much for giving us the chance to join this wonderful sight.
I hope they enjoy it, Nancy!!