Just in case you had any doubt that mobile apps have become amazingly popular in the last few years, new research studies reveal the following mind-boggling numbers. According to ABI Research, 2013 will see users downloading an estimated total of 70 billion apps to their handheld digital devices. Incredibly, that means more than 10 apps for every single person on the planet! The two biggest names in apps, Google and Apple, account for the lion’s share of mobile applications on the market, with each boasting the availability of about 800,000 apps each.
Of these, significant percentages are geared for use by children or, more precisely, for parents desiring a means for using their phones or tablets to entertain and/or educate their kids. In this area, numerous applications have been designed to both entertain and educate according to online program material for teachers seeking a reading specialist degree. We’ll take a look at what may be considered to be some of the best of what’s available.
What Makes a Good Learn To Read App?
With the huge selection of apps available for helping kids learn to read, obviously all of these options are not created equally. A good app must, of course, appeal to the sensibilities of the child using it. The best will promote a sense of:
- Progressive understanding
- A feeling of accomplishment
With smart phones and tablet PCs being pervasive in our culture and young children fascinated with these types of devices, it’s not difficult to understand their fascination with something that’s entertaining and yet educational as a mere side benefit of the interaction. With touch screen technology, learning seems almost effortless and becomes instinctive. And it works. A recent study conducted by PBS, through funds provided by the Department of Education, found that, through the use of educational apps made for the iPod, participants saw a 31 percent increase in vocabulary recognition within just a two-week period, averaging a total of only five hours of “study” during the two weeks. These were children aged 3-7 years using the Apple iPod Touch, with roughly half of their time spent using a program called Martha Speaks.
Different Apps for Specific Purposes
In helping children learn to read, different types of mobile apps are designed to strengthen different facets of language learning. These can be conveniently broken down into the following categories:
- Print Awareness – as children listen to stories being read to them they begin to understand the use of letters and the sounds they make, realize how reading involves movement from the left to the right-hand side of the page and how print is differentiated from pictures. Top apps in this category include Pictello and also Dr. Seuss’s ABC.
- Phonics – engages kids to learn basic phonic skills, recognizing upper- and lower-case letters and how they’re used to build words. Listening skills and vocabulary building are also promoted. Top apps in this category include Interactive Alphabet and iSpy Phonics.
- Vocabulary – designed to expand a child’s vocabulary skills through repetitive exposure to new words and their meanings, including homophones, synonyms and antonyms. These apps include Scrabble-type and crossword games, with some of the top-rated examples being Bookworm, Spelling Bee and Montessori Crosswords.
- Spelling – these allow for practice of letters, the sounds they make and how combining them in certain ways will form words. An interactive, tactile approach allows for on-screen manipulation such as drop-and-drag. Favorites include Alpha Writer, Bob’s Books #2: Reading Magic HD and C is for Cow.
- Writing – practicing handwriting skills go right along with reading skills and these apps offer interactive letter tracing, dot-to-dot and some turn the display into a lined writing pad. Top picks include iCan Write, iWrite Words and Kids Writing Pad Lite.
While some parents may balk at the idea of teaching their kids to read and write using a mobile device such as a phone or tablet PC rather than the old-fashioned way, the current trend is toward the former. A recent Nielsen study revealed that Smart phone use is 12 percent higher in households with kids, which may indicate popularity of use among the young. In 2010, PCWorld named the iPad the best toy for young children. It’s even more popular today.