Bottom Line: Ready to Read focuses on helping children form letter shapes and identify letter sounds to build early reading skills. Through an easy-to-use layout, children can choose to practice writing letters and beginner words or practice identifying letter sounds. This would be a good app for a child learning what sounds the different letters make and begining to build words based on letter sounds.
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Ready to Read by Minitutor focuses on building key skills necessary for pre-readers. Children will learn letter sounds, how to form letter shapes and identify early words. There are two main sections to this app. In the Train section, children practice writing letters and even words. The Play section tests children on identifying letters and words based on auditory clues. Children can compete for a high score in the Play section.
I appreciate that the graphics are simple and not distracting. While the screen looks professional, children are not overwhelmed by bouncing animals or flashing robots. It is a great balance of calm yet engaging for a young child. The menus are clear and easy to follow.
The training session works on letter and early word formation and has three categories: Choose a Letter, Random Letter, and Word Builder. Choose a Letter and Random Letter both focus on a single letter at a time. Word Builder allows the child to select a word, practice writing each letter, then see the letters displayed together to form the word.
In the training sessions the child is shown the outline of a large letter. An arrow then demonstrates how to draw the letter. Finally the child is given the opportunity to form the letter. A small arrow is displayed where the child should hold her finger and to show in what direction she should draw.
The Choose a Letter section starts with the child being shown all letters of the alphabet. After practicing the selected letter the alphabet is redisplayed to allow the child to pick again. The Random Letter section displays a continual loop of letters. As soon as one letter is formed, a new one is displayed until the child hits the back button to return to the menu. Word Builder displays the word, has the child write each letter of the word, then shows the completed word.
I had a hard time figuring out what order the letters were listed in the Choose a Letter section. Vowels are at the top, but other than that, I couldn’t see a pattern in the letter ordering. The top line of consonants goes in the order y, s, l, d and r which is a mix of straight lines and curves. The letters are not alphabetical, by level of difficulty or similar formation.
In the training section, there is no penalty for wrong attempts. While this is great at building confidence in an early writer, it is possible for a child to get a letter correct even through scribbling across the screen. Whenever a child gets out of bounds on writing the letter, the line pauses. The user can then pick back up where the line ended and continue. You can get out of bounds a multitude of times with no penalty. My son figured out he could just scribble his finger as fast as he could until the line was finally filled in and he was awarded a “Correct” response, even though he was a long way from correctly writing the letter.
I was a little surprised that the app only uses soft vowel sounds. Though understandable on the sound identification (since the hard vowel sound is the letter’s name), it would be nice during training to know that the vowels can be pronounced two separate ways. In word building, it did seem that all the words the user could practice writing contained soft vowel sounds, to avoid confusion.
Ready to Read focuses on lower case letter formation. This was done purposefully with the idea that children should focus on learning the lowercase before moving on to uppercase. Once users master lowercase, there is an option in the settings section to switch to uppercase letters. This allows the app to grow as the child advances.
This is a useful app, but for $3.99, I would like a little more precision with the handwriting and help with letters with multiple sounds. This is a great start for young children, and has some features that allow for growth as the child advances. But a few updates would really add to its potential.