Review by Fayme Evenson, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2017
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Serial Reader

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Literary app chunks out classic texts for on-the-go reading

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Character & SEL

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
9-12
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Pros: Manageable chunks of reading with an extensive list of classics.

Cons: Not designed for classrooms, so it's missing learning and accessibility supports.

Bottom Line: Useful if pedagogically limited option for teachers to introduce students to the classics, or prep for future units.

Teachers can use the free version of Serial Reader to engage students in a serial reading assignment of a literary classic. You're probably always looking for ways to help students use technology appropriately and with purpose. Have students download Serial Reader and then subscribe to the same book. For instance, Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd is a popular title for high school, but the writing style can be tough for students -- and yet the themes are easily translated. By breaking this book up over time, students might get less discouraged, and teachers, who can keep up with the book's issues, can facilitate short discussions for each issue in-class or online. Since there are no teaching supports, teachers may want to read the books first and design guiding questions or provide some contextual readings and resources for each issue or week's worth of issues.

Serial Reader can also be a great tool for teachers during the school year (or summer) to manageably screen potential titles that'll help meet some standard or be a great addition to a course of study. 

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Serial Reader is a reading app focused on chunking out classic literature in 20-minute, daily "issues." New users create a quick profile and then begin curating their book subscriptions (which are free). Once subscribed, users receive chapter/issue at the same time every day (which can be adjusted in Settings). The Premium version ($2.99 in-app purchase) unlocks the ability to access all issues without waiting. The home page displays recently released and upcoming issues as well as the Serial Streak, which shows users how they've read and for how long (this can also lead to badges).

Click on +New in the top right corner of the app to browse all available titles (449 as of the time of this review, with more to be added over time). Through the app's menu, users can also access completed books, highlights and notes (available with a Premium purchase), and books that have been saved for later. There's also Goodreads integration that shows whether a user's Goodreads favorites and wishlists are available in Serial Reader. Goodreads is also updated based on your Serial Reader progress. 

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Serial Reader's primary value is in giving students and teachers extensive access to a library of classics in a clever, daily format that makes otherwise intimidating books feel inviting. For students, Serial Reader can be just the supplement they need to dig into challenging texts. For teachers, the daily subscriptions can be a way to explore potential titles or just brush up on themes and storylines of a set of texts for the upcoming semester or year. The big drawback is that Serial Reader wasn't designed for classrooms, so there are no lesson plans or study guides to aid students' comprehension. There are some built-in features like a dictionary and Wikipedia, but teachers will need to do lots of planning and preparation to effectively integrate Serial Reader. Adding some of these supports, as well as more accessibility features like reading levels or text-to-speech, could make this an impressive tool for teachers. As it stands, though, it would be a wonderful way to engage reluctant readers in a process that they have complete control over. 

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
4

The sleek, easy-to-navigate design is modern and pleasing. There's a wide range of books on offer to broaden students' knowledge and experience.

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

The simplified, daily delivery of classic literature can encourage students to stay engaged over time, but teachers will need to help students unpack what they've read in class. 

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

Well-organized with some useful supports (dictionary, Wikipedia, fonts, text size and styling), but lacks the accessibility features of other readers better tuned to schools.


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