Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated July 2014
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Homer: Kids Learn to Read App

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A captivating, comprehensive beginning reading resource

Subjects & skills
  • English Language Arts

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: So much content, kids can play many sessions and barely scratch the surface.

Cons: Some of the app's verbal praise ("Wiggly ears cheers!") can get annoying, and paid content is displayed alongside free content.

Bottom Line: Concrete phonics learning alongside books, songs, storytelling, and art.

Homer can be an excellent self-guided phonics experience for kids of a wide range of pre-reading and early reading skills levels. For students needing more motivation to practice phonics, employ the "Learn to Read" section (which contains the phonics lessons) first, and then use the other parts of the app as a reward for time spent completing lessons. There are so many beautifully, creatively illustrated stories from numerous genres on Homer. Take advantage of the app's library as a source for your read-aloud time and recount these well-chosen stories, poems, and folk tales with dramatic flair to captivate your student audience. This app encourages kids to think critically about what they've read or listened to through answering questions via multiple choice, voice recording, and drawing. Consider using drawing as a reading comprehension tool for content read in the classroom, too.

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Homer is a learn-to-read app for kids ages 3 to 6 that incorporates drawing, voice recording, stories, songs, and more, along with more traditional phonics exercises. A beautiful map on the main page presents all of the options kids can explore: Learn to Read, Story Time, Discover the World, and Homer's Clubhouse. Clear verbal instructions guide kids in all areas. In Learn to Read, kids tap and listen to a lesson, play activities, and review before moving on to the next lesson. In Discover the World, kids tap on a bright photo to select a subject within the categories of science, art, history, or literature. Story Time houses book options. Kids choose "read-to-me" or "I'll read it." The Clubhouse is where kids find free-drawing and recording, and a pinboard displays their work.  Up to three kids can have individual user accounts on one app, and teachers can view progress of each kid aligned with their account. Homer is an excellent beginning reading resource.

One quibble with this otherwise fantastic app: Kids can see the paid content alongside the free content, which could lead to frustration for kids in the target age range. For example, the first two reading lessons are free, but the next lessons in the row require in-app purchases. More separation between the free and paid content would be ideal.

Homer is an outstanding way to get kids excited about reading. The systematic phonics lessons can help kids learn letter sounds, letter (capital and lowercase) and word recognition, critical thinking while reading, and reading comprehension. By reading or listening to the stories, kids can also learn about animals, historic figures, world cultures, music, and other topics relevant to their lives. There's lots of interesting content about things like frogs and world music, fiction, poetry, and songs, and a free-drawing feature, so even kids who aren't quite ready to read or haven't been bitten by the love-of-reading bug can find something fun. As kids make voice recordings and draw pictures, they are learning digital creation skills. The app includes plenty of positive feedback ("Hooray and happy day!" and "Wiggly ears cheers!") but it can feel a bit over-the-top after a while. With so much content, kids will have something new to read, listen to, or try for months.

Overall Rating

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

Homer is a fun app that engages kids through a beautiful map where they can find just the right lesson, book, song, or creative activity to pique their interest that day.

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

Learning and creative expression are integral parts of the experience. Kids get systematic phonics lessons, and then respond to critical-thinking questions about readings.

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

Verbal instructions throughout lessons and activities are clear and brief. Kids can extend the core lessons to related creative drawings, voice recordings, and extension activities. Adults can get reports on each kid's progress.

Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Amy R. , Media specialist/librarian
Media specialist/librarian
Mountain Valley Middle School
Mexico, United States
Free app reads to students, teaches phonics, and encourages them to create based on what they've learned.
I have used Learn with Homer with my most important students: my own children, ages 2 and 6. I think it is a great app to suggest to parents of kiddos ages 2-8. Students take a photo of themselves and select a "thinking cap" for their avatar. The more levels they complete, the more thinking caps they earn. More than one student account can be made on each app. Activities include word and sound sorts, listening to poems read aloud, and creating drawings and sound recordings based on their learning ...
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