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Apps are a completely brilliant way to help children learn to read.
Some kids do learn quickly with traditional reading schemes.
But in my experience most … including mine! … really respond to the extra motivation of cool interactive games AND rewards!
Apps are also a big help for struggling kids who need lots and lots of practice with phonics.
Constant repetition is pretty dull but apps can cover the same phonics in all sorts of fun ways.
So what apps should you buy?
The best learn to read apps for kids
There are loads of fun learn to read apps out there … we’re into Endless Alphabet at the moment … but the downsides of individual apps are that most focus on a few skills so you always need new apps as your kids progress.
And in lots of apps kids can jump from game to game before mastering specific phonics and end up just randomly clicking buttons.
This is where apps that are complete learn to read programs come into their own, as they guide children systematically through the different stages of learning to read.
Some of these complete learn to read apps aren’t cheap, but I have been completely wowed by the progress my daughter has made in a very short time with Reading Eggs, the program we use.
There are quite a few different programs out there, so you need to do your homework on what they offer and which will work best for you and your kids.
These are my tips on how to choose the best learn to read program for your kids and some suggestions for programs to consider.
Choosing Learn to Read Apps
Some, like ABC Mouse, Agnitus and Pre-K Scholars, focus on pre-K and Kindergarten while others, e.g. Reading Egg, support kids from 3 to 13. In my experience you get more out of programmes, the more you invest in them so there are advantages to the programs that cover a wide reading age.
But if your know your child gets easily bored you may prefer a shorter program.
Although young children can master keyboards & a mouse, touch screen apps speed things up for pre-K and Kindergarten and keep them more engaged.
If you don’t currently have a touch screen computer some good budget laptops available with touch screens that are great for sharing with your kids.
A few of the apps that are very, very good but have been around for a while e.g. Study Dog require Flash, so won’t run on an iPad unless you install a browser that supports flash e.g. Puffin.
Learning to read is a complex combination of sound and shape recognition, context, meaning, logic and concentration. Children who struggle with one or more of these individual skills may struggle with reading and need targeted support to help them learn to read.Some reading programs e.g. TNT Reader have been specifically developed for struggling readers and, so if you think your child is struggling, do check out whether the program is targeted at their reading needs.
What School Uses
Plenty of schools now use learn to read apps, e.g. Click n Kids, so it’s worth finding out what they use and whether there’s a home version that you can sign up for so you’re reinforcing what’s going on in the classroom.
It’s a no-brainer but do try out before you buy … Reading Eggs, Study Dog, ABC Mouse, for example, all have free trial versions available and Hooked on Phonics has a discounted trial.
Try it out yourself first and then spend time letting the kids try it out … their perspective may be very different to yours.
Do give yourself enough time to get the most out of the trial.
Do NOT under estimate the motivation for kids of collecting small creatures as rewards!
When you’re doing a trial do see if the reward scheme engages your child.
Phonics definitely help many kids to read … particularly those who might struggle otherwise … but it’s not the whole story. Reading is a complicated mixture of sound and shape recognition plus understanding of meaning and context.
Some programmes such as Agnitus emphasise that they combine phonics with this whole language approach.
How Do My Kids Learn Best?
Children learn in different ways … partly due to abilities & interests but also to personality.
Introvert kids for example, may respond better to programs with a strong focus on independent learning. And whilst some children may enjoy fact focused apps others may prefer a stronger focus on character and plot as in Study Dog.
To find out more about how personality impacts learning styles do check out Kidzmet and the Parent’s Playbook for Learning which is a great introduction to children’s personalities.
Is it Just Reading?
Whilst kids definitely benefit from focus many may find the separation of games into “reading”, “math” and “other stuff” pretty artificial. Some of the programmes are pure reading programmes whilst others like Agnitus and ABC Mouse have a range of different games
Discounts for Multiple Children
One of the biggest benefits of full reading programs is the progress tracking and progression from stage to stage when they are personally read. If you’ve got more than one child at different reading levels do make sure that the reading program can be used by multiple children without you paying 2 or 3 times over.
I would love to hear about your experiences of learn to read apps … which ones do you rate? And which features have you found most valuable for your children?
Luci is the founder of Mums Make Lists. She has written about all aspects of organising family life for ten years. Her main areas of expertise are family finance and budgeting, simplifying housekeeping and family admin and kids’ party planning. Read more.
the classroom creative
Saturday 29th of March 2014
We enjoy a lot of these apps! Thought I would share another sight word app my son plays all the time called "Word Bingo"! Thanks for sharing all these great ideas!
Wednesday 29th of January 2014
I must say you really have worked hard to come up with such exciting list. i am a single parent homeschooling two kids. besides, i am running my own website named helpkidsread.net, do visit it.furthermore, i am volunteering my services at a school run for poor kids. i am going to use this list of apps for my students. thanks for sharing.
Saturday 18th of January 2014
Great ideas, we have some of these, but I can't wait to check out the newer ones! Thanks for sharing! :)
Tuesday 7th of January 2014
wonderful ideas. Pinned to my Kids app list board.
Sunday 5th of January 2014
Thanks this was helpful. my son is turning 3 in february and we are going to be working on letters, words, sounds, etc. this year. http://www.handmadeintheheartland.com/