Google recently launched a website to go with its Read Along app, which helps kids learn to read. I have a preschooler and a first-grader, so we road-tested the app to see if it could help us on our reading journey.
The app presents hundreds of illustrated stories available at four different reading levels. The stories are grouped by topic and level. My kids, of course, opted for the books labeled “funny.” The books were fine for learning, but don’t expect to find any Mo Willems gems or other famous children’s books among the selections.
When you open the app, your kid can select a story and start to read. Diya, the app’s virtual assistant, acts as a reading buddy. She checks that kids pronounce each word correctly and sounds out the word if they get it wrong. When you correctly pronounce a word, it turns blue and a little star appears on top. If you mispronounce something, the words are underlined in red. You can have Diya read the word for you by tapping the word once. Diya will also pronounce it more slowly if you tap the word twice. The app offers motivational praise throughout to encourage your kid to keep reading.
Once you have completed a story, you win stars and badges and get to take a photo of yourself. The photo is optional, and I’m not quite sure what the point of it is, but my kids loved this feature. When you sign up, there is a disclaimer that the app will collect information from its users — including name, voice, app usage activity and photo — so be aware of this before signing up.
When we finished reading our story, we played a game on the app. There are three types of games to choose from: “Jumbled Up,” “Pop the Balloons” and “Speed Reading.” The games contain words that your child will be familiar with from reading the stories. It’s a good way to keep those new words in their heads. The “Jumbled Up” game helps kids work on their spelling. The “Pop the Balloons” game is focused on phonics.
Stories are available in a number of different languages, including English, Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, Spanish and Portuguese. The goal is to help kids from all over the world learn to read. According to a website statement, “Sixty-four percent of participants from the India pilot study with access to the app showed an improvement in reading proficiency.” You could also use the app to help your children learn to read in another language.
The activity log tells you how much time your kids spent reading and how many stories they completed. My son happily read a few books and played a few games one afternoon while I did some chores. I love reading with my kids and helping them learn how to pronounce words, but on the days when you are short on time, this app is a great assistant to call on for supplemental learning. As kids return to school this fall, the app might just give them a boost and reinvigorate their enthusiasm for reading.
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