Review by James Denby, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2018
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BeeLine Reader

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A surprisingly simple tool to improve reading

Subjects & skills
  • English-Language Learning
  • English Language Arts

Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Easy to set up, customize, and use.

Cons: Doesn't directly promote or assess fluent phrasing or comprehension when reading.

Bottom Line: This is a unique, easy-to-implement reading fluency and comprehension aid that's gaining some evidence of effectiveness.

Teachers can add BeeLine Reader to student devices to allow them a different view of text while reading. Once it's installed (either by students, teachers, parents, or system administrators), it's important to give students some time to get used to the way BeeLine Reader displays text. BeeLine offers a quick reading challenge to get a sense of the impact it might have on reading. After a couple days of reading with it enabled and adjusting settings (students can click on the cog and choose their color scheme), most students will likely be completely used to it. At that point, it would be a good idea to give students some timed reading passages with comprehension questions or ask them to summarize each passage. This way students can self-assess whether BeeLine is useful and if they want to keep using it.

Teachers should take note: There's also an education version of BeeLine Reader called BeeLine Reader Edu that allows teachers to control the sites that students can access. For classrooms that use a lot of PDFs, there's also a BeeLine Reader PDF viewer.

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BeeLine Reader is an app (iOS) and browser extension for Chrome and Firefox designed to facilitate reading fluency and comprehension (as well as engagement for media publishers). By displaying text using shifting color gradients that wrap from line to line, BeeLine Reader helps readers track across the page and from line to line. There are several color schemes available depending on user preferences, but each one is designed to help readers "chunk" text, read more quickly, and recognize important information. One of the interesting things about BeeLine Reader is that it doesn't seem like it would make a big difference, but for some readers it does. On the developer's site, there are several challenges available to test how BeeLine can help your reading. For young or struggling readers, some early research into BeeLine has shown that it can help students make substantial gains in fluency and comprehension.

There are some notable additional settings and features available for BeeLine, including a Focus mode (to minimize distraction while reading) and OpenDyslexic font, and a PDF-specific version of BeeLine for classrooms using a lot of that format.

The potential to increase reading speed and proficiency, especially for struggling readers, makes it worth the try given the growing body of research and anecdotal reports of effectiveness. That being said, BeeLine Reader is more a functional tool than a learning platform. It's not designed to teach anything by itself. For many, that simplicity will be part of the appeal. Each student may respond slightly differently, of course, but for some students it may make a significant difference in their reading development, and it's a pretty light (and free) lift to have students give it a shot and see if it works for them.

For students who do use BeeLine, it'd be helpful to have them incorporate self-assessments while reading, to ensure comprehension as well as fluency.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

BeeLine Reader is meant to facilitate digital reading and does so quite well. Students seem to like it, and it supports popular sources.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

BeeLine Reader helps readers chunk text and track from line to line. Early research seems to indicate that it works well.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

BeeLine Reader is straightforward; it simply re-colors text of what you're reading. It'd be helpful to have some more info about impact on students' reading.

Common Sense Reviewer
James Denby Educator/Curriculum Developer

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