A Review of Reading Apps and Programs - How to Grow a Bookworm
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A Review of Reading Apps and Programs

There is a lot of support online for reading but it can vary dramatically in terms of usefulness, price and relevance.  I have picked a few of the most well-known apps and coordinated reading programs.  Most are designed to provide a range of activities and support that will take your child from the first early sound recognition through each stage of the reading journey.

Teach Your Monster to Read

This is an engaging app with the simple aim of teaching your monster to read and you along with it. As the game begins your monster is flying through space in a spaceship and crash lands on an island. He quickly realises that he can’t read the spaceship’s instruction manual so he goes to the king of the island for help.  Your monster moves from island to island playing games and learning new sounds as he goes.

The games are mainly straightforward, fun and effective.  There are three levels that you can play at which range from those who are just beginning to learn sounds to those who can already read sentences.

While the game is comprehensive in its teaching and makes it clear to adults what sounds and strategies are being taught it definitely needs to be played a little bit at a time alongside phonics teaching in school.  If it were to be used for longer periods of time or to introduce a set of sounds prior to them being taught in school I think that it could become a little repetitive.  As you go on there is a wider range of games to learn each sound but if you make errors you must repeat the same activities over and over again.

These things aside this is an absolutely fantastic game.  If you are looking for an effective addition to existing phonics teaching and practical activities then this is the game for you.

Price:  Teach Your Monster to Read is free to play on the computer but is currently listed at £4.99 in the app store.

www.teachyourmonstertoread.com

 

BBC Storytime

This is an app created by the BBC and if you follow the link below you will see that they introduce it with an interesting article on learning to read.  This article also introduces the BBC’s whole learn to read program which includes alphablocks, the storytime app and the daily bed time story.  It is definitely worth a read and shares several very useful ideas.

The storytime app is a really great use of recent technology to showcase some fantastic stories and add an extra interactive layer to them.  The focus here is on whole words and stories rather than breaking words down into phonetic components or teaching phonics.

Because the app actually tells the story and allows children to follow along with the words they can pick up words as they go and access stories that would be too advanced to read independently.  As it says on the tin it attempts to mimic story time and hopes to provide the same benefits.

This is a really great app to be used as an extra to your normal story time.  While this is very entertaining it will in no way provide the same experience and associate benefits as actually sharing a book with your child. Used in combination with all that the BBC has to offer in terms of reading and alongside school teaching and home reading support this will really add value to your child’s reading journey.

Price:  Free download

https://www.bbc.co.uk/cbeebies/grownups/making-time-for-books-at-home

 

Reading Eggs

Reading Eggs is a vast and comprehensive reading program and feels as if it is aimed at being a home school program.  It comes in four different parts.  Three for reading and one for maths:

 

Reading Eggs Junior

This is for 2-4 year olds and helps them to learn words, sounds and letters.

 

Reading Eggs

Aimed at 3-7 year olds it gives complete phonics and reading lessons.

 

Reading Eggspress

For 7-13 year olds this develop comprehension vocab spelling and grammar.

 

Mathseeds

This is designed to ‘plant the seeds’ of maths skills and strategies that will be used by older children.

 

Each stage gives children a broad spectrum of approaches to learning to read in one package.  From books, videos, puzzles, games and printable worksheets there is so much excellent material here.  This has clearly been put together by people who have a very good understanding of what works in terms of learning to read.  However, although there are physical resources and books that can be used alongside this program I felt that its main drawback was that it covered nearly everything using a screen.  Obviously this is going to be the case for an online program but because it can be used as a child’s independent and standalone means of learning and developing reading I felt that it would need significant parental input to ensure that children remained engaged.  I also felt that parents may need to adapt some activities into a physical version to really make them stick.

If you are looking for something to support your child’s reading in addition to their school work then I don’t think this is the one for you. If you are looking for something to provide a comprehensive reading program then this is a good choice.  Because every lesson is self-contained and children can use them independently you will be left with the time to plan additional activities with practical resources and additional books to consolidate what they learn in this program.

Price- 14 day free trial of all 4 stages.

£6.99 per month (including maths seeds)

£39.95 for 12 months (excluding maths seeds)

£47.95 for 12 months (including maths seeds)

Additional purchases include book packs that match the lessons.  Family discount is available if you add additional children to your purchase when you sign up.

https://readingeggs.co.uk/

 

Reading Bear

Reading Bear is a wonderful free resource from America.  It doesn’t directly correspond to phonics and reading systems in the UK but can be extremely useful none the less.  It is a comprehensive collection of videos (some better than others), presentations and activities.

If you familiarise yourself with the layout and contents prior to needing it you should be able to find all sorts of useful resources when they may be useful.  I particularly liked some of the quizzes that could be used to reinforce certain sounds.  There are some very useful tips to help parents support children to learn letter sounds and some documents that outline this process step by step.

What makes this resource incredibly useful is the fact that you can dip n and dip out when needed.  This makes it ideal if you find that your child needs extra support in specific areas or learning certain sounds you can look for something useful here.  If you use this to add value to your existing reading time and to firm up some weaker areas then it is a real winner.

Price: Free

http://www.readingbear.org/

 

Reading Rockets

When exploring reading rockets be sure to start with their excellent article entitled ‘How most children learn to read’.  This is a really accessible and comprehensive introduction to all the stages of reading development from birth onwards.

Reading rockets is another American site so doesn’t match up entirely with what is taught in UK schools.  However, as a source of information about reading it is a real treasure trove.  Nearly everything is research based so gives you a good idea of a range of effective practices.  If you want to understand more about the process of reading and learning to read this is definitely the place to visit.  They have lots of suggested activities and ideas for parents as well as lots of examples of effective reading lessons.

Price: Free

http://www.readingrockets.org/

 

Oxford Owl

Now this is an absolute must visit.  Here you will find everything from videos of phonic sounds and support for hearing your child read to suggested books for their level.  This is built around the National Curriculum and will give you lots of ideas in how to support what your child is learning at school.

This isn’t an app or a game but it will really work well alongside what your child learns at school and really add value to what you can provide at home.  Also if you are struggling to find books that fit the level your child is reading at this is the place to visit.  (Teachers should be able to give you a rough idea of the Oxford Reading Tree level that your child is working at because most book banding systems are translatable into other levels.)

Price: Free

https://www.oxfordowl.co.uk/for-home

 

Top Picks

These are all fantastic resources with a range of different strengths.  My top picks are Teach your Monster to Read and Oxford Owl.  Supplementing your current reading strategies with these two programs will really support your child to make progress in reading.

If you have any experience with any of these or you know of any other relevant apps or programs please let me know and I will check them out.

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