Review by Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2013
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Reading Trainer

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Speed first, comprehension second in one-sided brain-training app

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Teachers say (1 Review)
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Grades
9-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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Pros: Games can be used for brain training, and progress stats can motivate teens to get even faster.

Cons: It doesn’t address many of the skills students need to focus on beyond speed.

Bottom Line: Beyond the focus on reading speed, these brain exercises can help teens think fast, too.

You may find the reading speed tests informative to use with teens or older kids, just to see where they're at. The brief reading excerpt test gives a WPM (words per minute) score; it also tests comprehension with four questions, giving a percentage score. While Reading Trainer does claim to improve reading comprehension, be aware that speed-reading programs generally consider a lower reading comprehension rate to be successful; you be the judge.

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Reading Trainer is an app designed to increase both reading speed and retention using eye exercises that its developer says will improve mental capacity. It starts by assessing teens' current reading speed in WPM (words per minute) and then takes them through about a dozen units of study with several exercises each to train their brains to read faster by focusing only on important characters or information. Some exercises are simply eye-brain training -- like following a moving circle across the screen with eyes only, or reading numbers flashing across the screen. Others require some speedy feedback from students -- like typing in words or numbers that flash quickly across the screen. The app tracks progress at every step, and teens can take a reading speed test at any time to see how they're progressing. Users are encouraged to complete one unit a day -- about 10 minutes of training -- and then rest their brains to allow them to process the new connections.

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Yes, kids can learn to read quickly, but the app ignores skills they're working on beyond speed, like deeper comprehension, vocabulary development, reading for information, literary analysis, and reading for enjoyment. For these, students need close, careful reading more than speed.

Still, the brain exercises in Reading Trainer can help kids think and react clearly and quickly in addition to boosting their reading speed. The speed-reading part of the training teaches students to look at information in chunks, to read images rather than words, and to focus only on relevant information. The stats after each activity allow students to see how practice improves their performance.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
2

This is a straightforward, results-oriented, no-frills app. There's not much to engage kids beyond the goal of self-improvement.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Activities increase or decrease in challenge based on a teen's performance and are repeated to solidify learning. The tasks are all about speed, so there's not much other learning baked in here.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

Teens see how practice boosts their performance as they view the statistics showing their improvement after each activity.


Common Sense Reviewer
Amanda Bindel Classroom teacher

Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Wheatley D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Warren Mott High School
Warren, MI
4
Great Training Program to Increase Reading Speed for High School/College Learners & Beyond

I personally love this app. As a reader, I am always wanting to improve my speed and devour content at a more efficient rate. I feel confident that this app will help me do that. That said, I am an adult. This app is beautifully designed, has clear rationale and introductions for every activity, and encourages my progress with graphs and star-ratings after each task. From what I can tell, this app was not created with high school students in mind. This is geared towards professional adults that want to boost their reading speeds. The terminology used, the professional interface, the cost, etc. all reveal that this is intended for higher level learners and readers. However, I could definitely see this appealing to high schoolers (maybe 10th grade and up) and college students. Students at these levels appreciate individualized programs and the ability to improve independently and on their own terms. As a teacher, this might be helpful to generate ideas for how to train younger readers to read more efficiently. This is a hugely beneficial skill, especially with the amount of standardized tests students are expected to take in their academic lives. Teachers could use this app and glean ideas for activities from it, then recreate them on a larger scale in class. For example, there is an activity where users have to search for 2 letters within a word-searchlike grid. This could be created on paper and students could time one another, then track their results on their own.
Overall, I am really impressed with how this app drew me in and got me excited about faster reading. I was glad to feel like this app was not only worth my money in its quality and design, but also in its potential outcomes for me as a reader and as a teacher of readers.

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