I learned long ago that the iPad’s game and video apps cast a magical spell over my children, but this summer I’ve also been pleased by how much they have learned while using their tablets. This is important, as my 4-year-old is going to “real” school for the first time. His reading skills, in particular, have been helped by some great apps. These have helped him move from knowing shapes and sounds of letters to actually reading words.
One of the most comprehensive apps for teaching reading is a free iPad app called Learn With Homer (not the Greek one or Mr. Simpson, you’ll be pleased to hear). It’s a set of lessons and games presented with bright cartoon graphics and amusing sounds.
Using animations and spoken guidance, the app leads children to sound letters that appear on the screen and shows how letters make words, using examples like “alligator” and “ant.” The app’s learning sections are interspersed with game sections, and there is a listening section where children read and hear stories. Completing a lesson or story is rewarded with the chance to draw something on the screen or to record an answer to a question about the story. The app’s best feature is that it keeps these pictures and recordings, because it is fun to look back on them.
The app’s interface feels child-friendly and is easy to use thanks to on-screen cues and spoken instructions. Children could most likely use it on their own — though an adult may need to lend a hand with some controls, like the drawing interface. The app also has great attention to detail. For example, in the section that reinforces learning letter sounds there is a convincing animation of a child mouthing the sounds on the screen.