Review by Dana Villamagna, Common Sense Education | Updated June 2012
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Kids Learn to Read

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Cute phonics activity needs more support for deep learning

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Grades
Pre-K-K This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Sweet characters, three easy activities help kids ease into reading.

Cons: Words presented aren't in order of difficulty and app tracks no data.

Bottom Line: Simple letter sound-blending activity could be a hook to kick off classroom practice.

The most engaging activity on Kids Learn to Read involves moving Tommy the Turtle across the bridge made of letters. You could introduce Tommy and his word bridges to the whole class by projecting the app, and then break into small groups and have students make their own paper, letter-based word bridges. They could swap bridges and practice sounding out different words. Kids could also switch letters with other students to make new words and new letter sound blends.

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Kids Learn to Read is an early reading app that focuses on blending letter sounds to form three- and four-letter words. Tommy Turtle leads kids into sounding out words -- first very slowly, then at moderate speed, then quickly. A sweet narrator instructs kids to help Tommy walk across a bridge made up of a word. First he walks over each letter, and kids hear each individual letter sound. Next, kids put sneakers on Tommy, and he runs over the letters, blending the letter sounds more quickly. Finally, kids tap on Tommy's skateboard, which he rides over the letters to create smooth, recognizable sounds that form the word. A colorful image appears above the bridge to confirm the word meaning. Two games teach kids to build words and recognize a completed word by sounding it out or by sight.

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Kids focus on blending letter sounds to make words, in particular consonant-vowel-consonant words. The cute games can help them understand that words are read from left to right and that each letter sound blends with others to make words. There's a lot of positive feedback from the narrator and few ways for kids to answer incorrectly, making the potential for frustration very low. For incorrect answers, the narrator offers a gentle correction such as "Keep practicing," and if kids provide another wrong answer, the game simply switches to new word.

Unfortunately, the word order feels random -- there isn't a logical progression to build upon learned skills. In addition, there's no tracking or recording of correct and incorrect responses, time spent on each game, or any such data. As a result, teachers who are using this app as a solo practice app for students may find it difficult to assess if individual students are using it effectively.

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Overall Rating
2

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Kids will enjoy these gentle learning challenges, especially the colorful, interactive elements with cute little animal characters.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
2

Without a lot of logical progression of word choices in the games, this isn't an ideal learn-to-read experience. However, it is fun and encouraging, and some of the games are helpful.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
2

A narrator sounds out each letter as it appears on the screen to help kids learn to sound out letters and letter combos. Unfortunately, there's no tracking or recording of correct and incorrect responses or any such data.


Common Sense Reviewer
Dana Villamagna Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Jason G. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
2
Average reading app that might not keep kids engaged for long.

Learn to Read still has some value as an app, but I would not rely on it to be the primary tool to support and help kids practice their literacy development. Other sites and apps like Starfall are more engaging and provide more options.

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