Develop Phonemic Awareness with These Educational Apps
As parents, we all want our children to be successful in the process of learning to read. There are many things parents can do prior to that point in order to set their children up for success. One of the most important is to develop your child’s phonemic awareness. Research shows that phonemic awareness is the number one predictor of a child’s success at reading. It makes sense to approach the development of this skill in many different ways, including apps! Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify and manipulate individual sounds (phonemes) in words. This is done through activities that help the child break those sounds apart, identify the individual sounds, and then change a sound in a word (cat to bat). Check out these apps that help your child develop phonemic awareness.
This app was designed by a speech language pathologist and covers the different parts of phonemic awareness through activities in a room that looks like a science lab. The activities cover skills such as rhyming, blending sounds, and counting syllables; however, the app does not provide any type of reward or entertainment value. Even when children successfully complete the activities, there are no rewards or free play. The app would be great as an assessment tool for parents or teachers, and the app does record your child’s scores and progress. The app also allows for tracking of multiple students. The app costs $19.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Dora ABCs Vol 3 takes your child to a frog fiesta while helping them blend and change sounds to make words. The phonics games have your child blend simple three-letter words together by themselves or with the support of tapping the letters to hear the sounds. Drag and drop the matching picture next to the word. Then the app gives you a new word, and you have to change the initial sound to build the new word; for example, change car to jar. The frog games that your child can play after the phonics practice keep children interested in the app. This app is not very long but practices important early pre-reading skills. The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-6.
Monkey Word School Adventure uses mini-games to help kids get started on the road to reading. Games include spelling, letter identification, rhyming, and much more. Kids love the fast-paced and engaging activities. Children are rewarded with special pieces to add to their own terrarium. Parents get so much value out of the descriptive settings page that break down the learning in each mini-game. The app auto-adjusts based on your child’s play or gives the controls to the adults for customizing the app. Either way, you will know what your child is working on! The app costs $1.99 and is appropriate for children ages 4-6.
If you are looking for more apps to support your child in pre-reading, check these ones out.
Tags: activities, assessment, blending, games, matching, phonemic awareness, Reading, rhyming, tracking
5 Sweet (e)Books to Read for Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and it is a fun time to enjoy some books related to the holiday. These books make great Valentine’s Day gifts for your special Valentine.
First Words Valentine is a sweet app that reviews common words associated with Valentine’s Day. The words are presented, and the letters are scrambled for the kids to arrange correctly. A picture accompanies each word to help children understand the meaning of the word. There are options for parents to turn off the letter clues, to turn off the sound, to change from lowercase to capital letters, or to change the font. The app is fairly simple but a fun way to enjoy Valentine’s Day. The best part is that the app is free! The app is appropriate for children ages 3-6. If you enjoy this style of app, the creator has several others designed in a similar way, such as First Words Animals and FirstWords: At Home.
Valentine’s Day is a great time to enjoy stories about love and kindness. This story is about the beloved character Biscuit and how he celebrates Valentine’s Day. The e-book has options for Auto Play, Read to Me, or Read by Myself. The app also includes a coloring book, sticker book, memory book, and puzzle section. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-5.
For additional book ideas for Valentine’s Day, check out these books at your local library.
Valentine’s Day Thematic Read-Alouds
George and his friends celebrate Valentine’s Day and, in his traditional mischievous style, causes trouble with balloons, glitter, and frosting.
Little Critter’s class is celebrating Valentine’s Day. Pull back the flaps and discover all the fun Valentine’s Day surprises.
Cornelia Augusta couldn’t believe her eyes as this unusual downpour began. Each heart was special, and she knew just what she wanted to do with each and every one of them. The simple and gentle text is kept to a minimum.
Enjoy these books with your little Valentine and check out our other ideas for celebrating the holiday here.
Tags: Reading, reading aloud, valentine's day, words
Fun E-books to Read Aloud with Your Child
E-books add variety and interest, making them great for read-aloud times with our child.
Reading aloud to children is a vital activity for building vocabulary, a love of reading, and an understanding of what reading “sounds like.” Also, reading aloud to children is the most important activity to build their eventual success in reading. Did you know that reading a book aloud is two times richer in vocabulary than watching a typical TV show?
Also, children’s listening abilities develop ahead of their ability to read, so it is important to continue to read aloud to children even when they start to read on their own. These skills do not level out until children are in approximately eighth grade, so continue the habit beyond the early years.
Oceanhouse Media has created a treasury of Dr. Seuss books. Here you will find the e-book versions of many of the classic Dr. Seuss books your child may already know and love, such as Hop on Pop, Horton Hears a Who!, Green Eggs and Ham, and The Cat in the Hat. Check out the rest of the books and read a new title with your child. The e-books include interactive and engaging features such as reading aloud to your child, highlighting the words, and looking for fun hidden treasures by tapping the scenes. The app is subscription-based, which gives your family access to 55 digital Dr. Seuss books.
Dragon Brush is so beautifully designed that parents and children will love interacting with this e-book. The background music is soft and calming, and the illustrations are beautiful. The narration is provided by a male voice. There are hidden interactive features on each page and special inkpots hidden in the story that unlock artistic features in the special painting area of the app. The story is about a young artist, Bing-Wen in China, who was poor and lacked the tools to create art that he loved. He helps a lady whose giant cart has overturned, and she gives him a paintbrush. He discovers that the paint brush is magic and everything he draws comes to life. The end of the story has Bin-Wang cleverly using his paintbrush to solve problems. The story is based on a traditional Chinese folktale and has a moral that you can discuss with your children at the end. Dragon Brush costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore is a delightful story that the whole family will enjoy. Mr. Morris Lessmore ends up in a magical world of books. He falls in love with each of these books and shares little tidbits with the reader through quotes and games. Kids get to immerse themselves in language and letters with mini-games and thoughtful interactivity. This is a wonderful app for sparking a love of reading. We highly recommend it for talking about the variety of books and purposes for reading with your child.
Also, try out some other KinderTown approved e-book favorites: The Monster at the End of This Book…starring Grover!, Fancy Nancy Dress-Up, and Goodnight Moon. Enjoy these interactive experiences with your child!
Tags: ebook, read aloud, Reading, vocabulary
Best Apps for Handwriting
Handwriting is an essential skill for early childhood development. Learning to hold a pencil or marker and then construct meaningful lines is a process that leads to learning letter and number formation.
Many of the following apps work not only for handwriting, but also for other skills associated with reading development. Learning to name letters, form them correctly, and associate the correct sound with the letter are all processes developed during the pre-reading stage of development. Try out these apps to develop early handwriting skills. If your child is able to hold a pencil, try a stylus for easier transfer of the skill from the iPad to paper.
abc PocketPhonics: letter sounds & writing + first words brings several important language skills together into one app. In abc PocketPhonics, children learn to recognize letters, hear letter sounds, form letters by tracing, and use the letter sounds to build words. Parents are able to create multiple users, control the font and letter types, choose the letters their child will work on, and determine how skillful the writing needs to be. The app introduces letters in small groups and works on each individual letter before moving on to the next group of letters. As each letter is introduced, the app gives the letter sound and tells your child to repeat it. Encourage your child to say the sound out loud as they play the app. Parents can opt into a weekly email that provides an update on your child’s progress. The app tracks the user’s answers and does not advance them without first demonstrating mastery of the basics. This app is appropriate for children ages 4-6 and costs $6.99.
LetterSchool learn to write letters and numbers is another best app to add to your child’s collection of letter and number writing experiences. Letter School clearly introduces each letter, sound, or number (1-9) with an additional 3 levels of interaction that supports your child from tracing a line to forming the letter all on their own. A variety of animations keep the content fresh and interesting for kids. Use bubbles or railroad tracks to trace over the lines. The positive, motivational feedback encourages your child and will keep them wanting to use this app! Check out the lite version to try out some of the content for free. The app is appropriate for children starting to use crayons and markers for the tracing portion of the app and should last up through mastery of the letters, approximately ages 3-5. The app costs $4.99.
iTrace – handwriting for kids provides a simple approach to practicing handwriting. The main menu offers clean choices of practice with uppercase letters, lowercase letters, or numbers. In addition, there is word section that has an area to practice writing your child’s name, thematic words, or a customizable word list. The app has a few distinctive features, such as left-hand friendly modeling and individual tracking, and it supports multiple users.
Related Blog Post:
Does My Child Still Need to Learn Handwriting? (Demme Learning)
Tags: development, early childhood, handwriting, language arts, letter sounds, letters, pencil grip, practice, Reading, tracing, words
Back to School Reading Apps
Back-to-school time is here, and these apps are great to supplement your beginning reader!
Reading Train Learn to Read Books, Songs & Games is a uniquely designed app for emergent readers. No other app is as specifically tailored to the needs of beginning readers. Reading Train includes 200 books for children who are beginning to read. Children are typically at this stage of reading during their kindergarten or first-grade year, depending on their development. Many children progress quickly through these stages, while others need more time. This app would be an asset to those children needing more time at this level. The app has a kid-friendly train where children choose books based on their level and desired topic. Parents, you will need to assist your child during their first interactions with the app in order to create a user and guide your child to the appropriate level. The books offer three different options: Listen, Read, and Record. Children like the books, but the app does not offer enough entertainment value that your child is likely to choose this app freely. Children are rewarded with a songbook after reading books and completing review activities. Some children won’t have enough patience to sit through the longer song and may tap the screen in anticipation of interactivity in this area. Also, this app should not be used in isolation because children need to learn the valuable skills associated with handling real books, such as reading left to right and orienting the book correctly. There’s no real substitute for creating a love of real books! The app would be a great supplement to a literature-rich environment. Reading Train Learn to Read Books, Songs & Games costs $3.99.
Duck Duck Moose Reading is a solid phonics practice app for your beginning reader. Children quickly progress through five varied phonics activities, each focused on a specific set of letters. Games are entertaining to play and are designed to focus kids on individual sounds, letters, or both letters and sounds in the context of words. Kids earn animals to add to their zoo after each series of activities. Parents are given a progress report for multiple kids who log into the app. We’d like it if parents were able to customize which letters and sounds are given to each child to practice. Overall, this is a good phonics practice app with the high quality visual and touch screen design that Duck Duck Moose is known for. Duck Duck Moose Reading is perfect for children at the Kindergarten or first grade level and costs $2.99.
Related Blog Post
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Tags: back to school, books, letters, phonics, Reading
E-Books for On-The-Go Reading
E-books are great to have for on-the-go reading and don’t require lugging around heavy books. My family enjoys them on vacation, in a waiting room or in the car. Try these out for your next trip.
Goodnight Moon turns the classic storybook into a relaxing digital e-book. The book includes the classic illustrations and the option for a soothing narrator. Children can use the optional spyglass to find hidden treasures in the illustrations. Subtle interactive sections are included on each page, such as playing with the mittens or making the cow jump over the moon. Everything about the e-book should help your little one drift off to sleep. Goodnight Moon costs $4.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Join Elmo and Grover for another silly story. The animations in the story app are captivating and invite children to get involved in the story. Children can easily tap to turn the page and giggle with Elmo and Grover as they try new ways to block the reader from turning the page. Of course, every child wants to turn the page anyway to see what silly tricks Elmo and Grover will try next. The book does include interactivity with objects on each page to interact and play with– perfect for young children. The app costs $3.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-5. This book is one that is sure to be enjoyed again and again.
This app by Oceanhouse Media is a digital book sure to be loved by your kids. I know many children who love to pretend to be pirates. The How I Became a Pirate book was a New York Times bestseller and is sure to be a favorite digital book as well. It has two options for reading: Read to Me and Read by Myself. The book has several different interactive pieces. When reading, your child can have the words read again by tapping them or tap the wrapping on a pirate’s head and hear the word bandanna. This story is perfect for summer because the story begins with a boy using his imagination at the beach, spying a pirate ship in the ocean. The pirates come upon the shore and interact with the boy. The boy in the story boards the pirate ship and has an adventure. KinderTown likes the recording feature on each page. Beginning readers can read and record their voices. Save the recording, and children can listen to themselves reading the story. This is a great learning activity for children ages 6-8. It develops fluency and expression while reading and will become a parent favorite as well. The app costs $3.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-8.
The Little Bug offers a pleasing story about a caterpillar who is fascinated with all of her bug friends. The story has calming background music and would be ideal before bedtime. The story offers many facts about bugs and has interactive pages to hold the youngest child’s interest. Children can make the grasshopper move, highlight the segments on a bug, or make the bee buzz. The art on each page is well done and communicates the story in an effective way. In the story, key words are in bold so that children can tap on them and have them repeated. The Little Bug costs $3.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-6.
Related Blog Post:
Unique eBook Apps
Tags: ebook, mobile, on-the-go, Reading, storytelling
Apps for Building a Love of Nursery Rhymes
Nursery Rhymes are important to develop a love of language and build a foundation for future reading skills. Read this blog post to learn more and enjoy these apps.
Baa Baa Black Sheep by Duck Duck Moose makes the familiar childhood nursery rhyme come alive with interactive silly characters and a search-and-find game, which links all the screen play together. The app is a wonderful activity for kids who love to explore and discover. We appreciate how it encourages young children to be inquisitive. Have “ Baa Baa Black Sheep”. The app includes pleasing music and young children’s voices to accompany the game play. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Little Miss Muffet lets your little one interact while listening and reading a familiar childhood nursery rhyme. Each line of the rhyme is presented on a page with many hotspots that your child can tap to listen and learn. For example, count the daisies and the apples. Our child testers liked that the apples fell with letters on the app. Put the letters together to spell the word apples. Each page is dedicated to learning either letters and words, numbers and counting, or colors. Two other nursery rhymes are hidden in this app as well. Overall, this app is a fun and valuable tool for learning nursery rhymes. The app costs $2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
This charming e-book app comes to life with pages of classic Mother Goose nursery rhymes. The table of contents includes ten classic nursery rhymes with pictures reminiscent of your childhood. Each page of the app has interactivity; including making Jack jump over the candlestick and making the rain in “Rain, Rain, Go Away” disappear. In addition, your child can put Humpty Dumpty back together again. This app allows your child to have the app narrate the story or read it aloud themselves. The app costs $4.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Goosed Up Rhymes gives nursery rhymes a modern twist. The most popular nursery rhymes that we all know and love are read and acted out on the screen with modern animation. KinderTown likes how the animation helps children comprehend the rhymes. Our child testers enjoyed all the special interactive areas on the screen for each rhyme. There are eight animated nursery rhymes that include features such as fixing Humpty Dumpty. This is a fantastic app to listen to nursery rhymes over and over again. The app costs 2.99 and is appropriate for children ages 3-4.
Related Blog Post:
Developing Language Skills with Nursery Rhymes
Tags: ebook, language arts, nursery rhyme, Reading
Dr. Seuss E-books
Read Across America Day is this week, and libraries and schools across the country will celebrate by reading Dr. Seuss books to children. Try some of these apps together with your child that celebrate reading! For more fun with words and sounds, check out our Power Pack Sound Play for children ages 3-4.
Dr. Seuss E-book Apps
Dr. Seuss ABC (iOS only)
This e-book reinforces your child’s growing knowledge of letters, sounds, words, and vocabulary. Your child will enjoy tapping the pages of this delightful ABC book in order to find hidden surprises. The e-book reads aloud to your child and highlights the words as they are read. You can also change the settings to allow the app to “Read to me” or “Auto Play.” The “Auto Play” feature reads the pages and turns the pages to allow the book to play like a movie continuously. In each story, letters are referred to by their size such as “Big A” and “Little a.” Be sure your child knows that this means uppercase and lowercase. The book engages your child by repeatedly asking questions such as, “What begins with C? or D? E?” etc. Try asking your child this type of question as you enjoy the story together.
Dr. Seuss Treasury (iOS only)
Oceanhouse Media has created a Treasury of Dr. Seuss books. Here you will find the e-book versions of many of the classic Dr. Seuss books your child may already know and love. For example, Hop on Pop, Horton Hears a Who!, Green Eggs and Ham, and Cat in the Hat. Check out the rest of the books and read a new title with your child. The e-books include interactive and engaging features such as reading aloud to your child, highlighting the words, and looking for fun hidden treasures by tapping the scenes. The app is subscription based which gives your family access to 55 digital Dr. Seuss books.
Related Blog Post:
Celebrate Read Across America Day with Dr. Seuss E-Books (2014)
Tags: books, ebook, preschool, Reading
Pre-Reading Skills: Beyond Letters and Sounds
Preschool and Kindergarten students (ages 4 to 6) learn to identify letters when learning how to read. It is also valuable for children at this age to practice rhyming, identifying letter sounds, segmenting words into individual sounds, and identifying syllables in words to support and strengthen their beginning reading skills.
Read with Doc McStuffins: Letters and Sounds
This app offers five pre-reading activities for preschoolers. It’s much more than an app to practice letters. The app focuses on the following skills: tracing and matching lower and upper case letters, recognizing letters and letter sounds, listening and matching rhymes, determining syllables, and hearing beginning, middle and ending sounds in words. The activities are expertly created and simulate lessons in preschool and kindergarten classrooms. The app will grow with your child as he learns the letters and gains reading skills. The animation and characters in this app come to life (no surprise from Disney) to motivate your child and help him focus on learning the skills. KinderTown is impressed with the quality of the content provided by the app. Our child testers enjoyed the balance of rewarding activities with the learning games. This app ranks at the top as one of the best we’ve seen for preschoolers.
Parents, watch your preschooler interact with the app and then simulate the activities in the real world with your child for extra practice. For example, the app uses common words to determine the number of syllables in a word. Ask your child questions like, “How many syllables do you hear in the word macaroni?” “How many syllables are in the word banana?” To imitate the rhyming games, ask your child, “Which word rhymes with cat, bat, or wagon?”
Check out the Power Pack: Letters and Sounds: Ages 5-6 for more tips about how to effectively use apps to help your child learn pre-reading skills, as well as hands-on activities you can do with your child.
Tags: Kindergarten, letter sounds, letters, preschool, Reading, rhyming, skills, syllables
Language Arts Apps for Elementary Students
Here are a few Language Arts Apps for elementary students, approximately grades K-3.
If you are using Spelling You See – Listen and Write, check out Starfall ABC’s and Gappy Learns Reading.
Language Arts Apps
Bluster Deluxe (iOS only)
Bluster Deluxe challenges students to make connections in word patterns as they read. Content focuses on rhyming, prefixes and suffixes, synonyms, homophones, adjectives and more. The game offers options for playing against others or working independently. Children will need to have a solid foundation with reading word lists in order to avoid frustration. If your child is beginning to read chapter books, this app would be a great fit to boost their vocabulary.
Starfall ABCs (iOS, Kindle Fire and Google Play)
Starfall ABCs brings each letter to life with pictures, animation, games, songs, and stories! Using a clear and articulate voice, each letter is identified by name, sounds, and words. Children interact with each letter by tapping, sliding, sorting, and dragging objects through five or more screens of engaging phonics learning. Many of the letters include real pictures as well as animations. The most exciting part of this app may be the sign language animations from the bottom menu! Starfall ABCs is a must-have app for children learning their letters, letter sounds, and beginning to read.
Gappy Learns Reading (iOS, Google Play, Kindle Fire)
Gappy Learns Reading supports young kids by building words letter by letter and sound by sound. Gappy gets lost from his home and your child needs to build 10 words to get him to his house. After building 10 words, prizes can be earned to customize the house. There are four levels in the app to accommodate a wide variety of abilities, from early learners who are beginning to work on letter identification, to early readers who have greater knowledge of how words are formed. Customization in the app includes turning on and off word sets and letter formation. This is a well-designed app for learning about letters and sounds while building words.
Reading Raven Vol. 2 – iOS only
Reading Raven Vol. 2 continues the excellent language development play from the original app. Designed to build on Reading Raven Vol. 1, kids work through digraphs (sh, qu), blends (spr, mp), and reading words and sentences with word lengths up to six letters. The play is the same with colorful thematic areas for repeated practice that thoughtfully build on each other. Adults can customize the activities for their child’s needs, and learn about all the levels right inside the app.
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Tags: adjectives, demme learning, digraphs, language arts, prefixes, Reading, rhyming, sentences, songs, spelling you see, suffixes, synonyms, vocabulary, word patterns