Can apps really help children learn to read?

There are many different reading apps on the market today, but are they an effective and safe way for children to learn to read?

In today’s blog we look at the pros and cons of reading apps and share our pick of the best.

Advantages of reading apps

  • In a study of children aged 4-5 years Flewitt et al (2015) reported that: ‘children’s motivation to succeed in iPad activities sometimes led them to display more advanced literacy skills than staff had previously given them credit for. For example, the reception class teacher was ‘blown away’ by the quality of some children’s iPad work… iPad-based literacy activities stimulated children’s motivation and concentration.’
  • Reading apps encourage children to engage with texts through games, puzzles, treasure hunts and other activities. Children have fun and are therefore motivated to learn.
  • Children can choose from a variety of fiction and non-fiction at the tap of a button. They might read classic fairytales, twists on classic fairytales, fables, short stories, travel logs, joke books, books on science and nature – it is all at their fingertips. Children can choose genres that match their interests.
  • Reading apps are convenient. They help to ensure that children read every day no matter how busy the family schedule.

Disadvantages of reading apps

Reading apps should not replace human interaction. Oral language skills are the foundation for young children’s reading and language comprehension. Parents should still read with their children and to their children daily if they possibly can and not consider apps as a replacement. In this way parents can help their children to understand what they are reading, answer their questions and extend their vocabulary.

Too much screen time can cause eyestrain (possibly even near-sightedness), dry eyes (we blink less when reading from a screen), neck pain and poor posture. Eyes become more tired than when reading print books because digital text and images are made from ‘pixels’ – tiny pieces that make our eyes work harder.

Reducing the brightness on screens can help to reduce eyestrain. E-readers (such as the Kindle) have a display that is more like ink on printed paper and this reduces eyestrain, but children’s reading apps are often used on smartphones and tablets rather than e-readers.

Both children and adults should not spend time in front of any screen for hours on end without a break.

Our pick of the best reading apps

When used as a complement to print books and not for extended lengths of time, reading apps are a valuable way of motivating children to read. However, there are so many apps available that it can be difficult to choose, so here is our pick of the best.

  1. Reading Eggs

Suitable for children aged 2-13 years, Reading Eggs supports children through guided reading tasks, activities and e-books. The app starts with phonics and tricky words moving on to building vocabulary and developing reading comprehension skills. Over 2,500 e-books are included.

2. Teach Your Monster to Read

Children create a monster and then take it on a series of adventure games that covers phonic phase two to phonics phase 5 (roughly children aged 3-6 years). There are short e-books for children to enjoy too. This app was nominated for a BAFTA.

3. Reading Raven

Children read, recognise and trace letters in order to build words and sentences. Reading Raven is a multi-sensory approach to reading that also develops listening skills and hand-eye coordination. The app is aimed at children aged 3-7 years.

4. Montessori Preschool

Although this isn’t just a reading app we’ve decided to include it here because it is brilliant for young children who might miss out on education this year due to lockdown. The app teaches children everything from phonics and maths to music and early coding skills.

5. Epic!

This is a digital library containing over 25,000 books including bestselling titles and National Geographic non-fiction books. You can create a profile for your child inputting their age and the categories of books they like (pets, sport, adventure etc). Children collect badges as rewards for progress and they can review titles for others when they’ve finished reading. Suitable for young children up to teens.

Does your child need extra reading support?

TutorMyKids’ English tutors have helped many children to overcome difficulties with reading. It is our aim to boost children’s confidence and to instil a love of reading that will last a lifetime. We provide engaging one-to-one tuition that is sensitive to every child’s needs.

Whether your child just needs a little bit of extra help or you are concerned that they have fallen significantly behind their peers, please get in touch with us today: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How parents can support children with dyslexia returning to school post-lockdown

For many children with dyslexia being away from school for a long period of time was a dream come true. For those children school represents struggle and at home they felt more relaxed being able to learn at their own pace. They may have felt a weight off their shoulders away from the daily pressure to produce quick results whilst sitting at a desk in a noisy classroom.

Other children may have found learning alone very difficult without the support of their teacher. Lockdown may have exacerbated the challenges they face with reading, writing, memorising and organising information.

If your child is anxious about returning to school you may be wondering how to help them. Here we share some suggestions and signpost you towards any further help you may need.

  1. Contact friends

Arrange for your child to regularly see one or two friends from their class after school. Friendships help children to feel a sense of belonging. Knowing that others care for them raises their self-esteem and helps to reduce feelings of anxiety.

To avoid seeing too many different people at this time your child could contact friends over video call. Video calling doesn’t work quite as well with small children but you could set up a game to encourage social interaction.

2. Talk to your child about their worries

It’s not always easy to talk to a child or young person about their worries. Pick a time when they are calm such as when you are out for a walk together rather than when they are in an emotional state. Be clear that their worries are not silly and that you won’t take any steps to tackle their worry that they are not happy with. 

You might start by asking your child how they are feeling about returning to school and normalize their feelings: “You’re right, the first day back is always nerve-wracking – I feel like that too when…”

3. Give children time to express their feelings

Activities can help children to express their feelings as they are more relaxed. Small children might enjoy sensory activities such as playing with homemade playdough scented with herbs and spices, making chocolate cake, or engaging in messy play with flour and water or paint.

Older children might like hands-on activities such as cooking, painting, crafting, and planting (see our blog post Summer science fun: Growing monster plants!)

4. Support your child how to manage anxiety

See our 10 stress-busting tips for students for some tips to help older children. Childline also has some advice on managing anxiety and on the coronavirus.

If your child has an ongoing struggle with anxiety you can also talk to your family GP who can put you in touch with a specialist service. Remember anxiety is treatable and it is possible to help your child to manage it so that it doesn’t impact the quality of their life.

NHS England lists some signs of anxiety for parents to be aware of. These include changes in mood, difficulty eating and sleeping and noticeably struggling to manage their emotions.

5. Talk to your child’s teacher

If your child has enjoyed learning at home and is feeling anxious about returning to a classroom environment, talk to your child’s teacher together with the school SENCO. They may need to put additional strategies in place to support your child. For example, they might give your child lesson materials such as Powerpoint slides to view in advance of a lesson, take a more multisensory approach to their learning or consider assistive technologies.

6. Plan fun things to do

Having interesting things to look forward to on the weekends and in the evenings reminds children that school is only part of their lives. It might be as simple as a film and takeaway night or a weekend visit to see a family friend.

Support for children with dyslexia

TutorMyKids can match your child with a specialist dyslexia tutor who can work in partnership with you to support their individual needs and raise their self-esteem.

To find out more please visit our parents page or get in touch: 01223 858 421/hello@tutormykids.co.uk

How-long-should-my-child-have-a-tutor-for?

How long you engage a tutor for will very largely depend upon the outcome or purpose of the tuition and the academic starting point of your child. Tutor My Kids provides tutors in Ely, Cambridge and surrounding areas and work with a huge variety of students from age 6 to 18.

Purpose and outcomes of tuition

There are many reasons that you might choose to engage a tutor to work with your child. It might be because of upcoming exams where you’ll need a GCSE tutor to support your child through the exams, or following a dyslexia or dyscalculia screening or assessment or concerns raised by your child’s school teacher that they’re below expectations for their age. The length of time that you work with a tutor can vary hugely, depending on the reason for seeking help in the meantime.

For GCSE tuition, we tend to suggest that year 10 is a good time to start looking at this. It’s not unusual at Tutor My Kids for all our GCSE tutors in key subjects to be fully booked by September of the year preceding the exams, so it’s good to think about this sooner rather than later. It may be that in fact, your child doesn’t actually need help until year 11, but by getting in touch with a tutor or tutoring company early, you can get on a waiting list early. Equally, if they’re struggling and not keeping up, there may be value in doing some groundwork in year 9 to put them in the best possible position to succeed in years 10 and 11.

You may find out at a parental consultation or end of term report that your child has fallen behind and is below age-related expectations. This means that they’ve not attained the knowledge and skills that would be expected for their year group. There may be many reasons for this: summer-born children can be behind because they’re younger and less mature when they start school, your child may have missed school due to illness when some key areas were taught – this is particularly prevalent with maths and can create maths gaps (take a look at maths gaps – why they occur and the problems they cause). There may also be general or specific learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, global delay, ADHD, Autistic Spectrum disorders which make it much harder for students to concentrate, process information, retain information and therefore be at or ahead of age-related expectations.

Dyslexia, dyscalculia and other learning difficulties can make it really hard for students to learn at the same rate as other students.

Length of tuition

The length of time that you have a tutor is really largely dependent on their academic starting point. For GCSE tuition, if they’re just a grade off where they need to be, to start in year 11 is usually fine. If they’re well below the level that they need to be in year 11, then earlier intervention is invariably better.

If your child is behind because of gaps, and no learning issues, then tuition usually fills those gaps and no further tuition is needed after that initial period, unless other gaps in learning occur.

Learning difficulties, such as dyslexia and dyscalculia can make it incredibly hard for students to keep up at school and it’s not unusual for attainment to remain below expectations for many years, through no fault of the student, teacher or parents without help. Additional tuition can make it easier for your child to learn and retain the information. One-to-one tuition can make a massive difference in situations such as this, but often this help will be needed for many years in order to get the students the grades they need to pursue their goals.

If you’d like more information on dyslexia or dyscalculia screening, or tuition please contact Tutor My Kids at hello@tutormykids.co.uk or call the office on 01223 858421.

If you’re a teacher who is interested in beoming a tutor in Ely, Cambridge, Newmarket or Huntingdon, please take a look at our tutor page and get in touch by email to arrange an informal chat to discover if it might fit with your present commitments.

What-dyslexia-tests-are-available-and-which-is-best?

There are various red flags that can point towards dyslexia or dyslexic tendencies. Take a look at our recent blog for more information: What is dyslexia.

Which tests are available?

There are 3 options in order to get more clarity if you think your child has dyslexia:

  • Dyslexia Screening
  • Dyslexia Assessment with a Patoss approved specialist
  • Full educational assessment with an Educational Pschologist

A dyslexia screening is a quick, inexpensive way to assess if your child is showing the signs of dyslexia. The results are worded as low ‘risk of’ dyslexia or high ‘risk of’ dyslexia. The reason that these dyslexia screening tests are worded this way is oddly not testing dependent, but dependent on the person doing the test. Only an Educational Psychologist or a Patoss approved specialist is allowed to say definitively that an individual definitely has dyslexia or not. It is, however, fair to take it that if your screening test shows a high risk of dyslexia, then your child is dyslexic. It gives information as to the areas that your child finds difficult which enables you to share this information with teachers and other professionals to get additional help for your child.

A Patoss (Member of the professional association of teachers of students with specific learning difficulties) assessor can formally diagnose dyslexia. These tests are a little more involved than a dyslexia screening and can be a good next step if you want to have your child’s dyslexia formally diagnosed. If you think your child may have a number of issues, such as ADHD, ASD and OCD, as well as possible dyslexia, an Educational Psychologist may be more appropriate.

An educational psychologist is able to conduct tests to assess across a fuller range of issues, such as delayed development, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder, ADD (attention deficit disorder), ASD (autistic spectrum disorder – Asperger type traits). So this is a good option to review your child in the whole.

Which is best for my child?

This depends entirely on the needs of your child.

A dyslexia screening is perfect if you think that dyslexia is the only issue for your child and you want a quick and economical test to quickly count it in or out.

A Patoss test is more appropriate if you want to have dyslexia formally diagnosed and more specialist testing conducted and are not concerned that there are other issues affecting your child’s learning.

If you think a more wide-ranging screening is needed for your child to include a wider range of possible issues with learning, then an assessment by an educational psychologist can be a good choice.

Tutor My Kids offer dyslexia screenings. For more information, take a look at our Dyslexia page.

What-is-dyslexia

What is dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a learning difficulty which show as difficulty in three main areas:

  • Phonic Difficulties
  • Processing Speed
  • Memory/Working memory

The presence of all three is needed before a child would be thought to be dyslexic.

Phonic Difficulties

Difficulties in phonics (the sounds that make up words) can be around finding it difficult to learn the sounds, mixing up sounds such as d and b, v, f and ph and/or blending sounds together such as sp and fl. These problems can make it hard for children to read, understand what they’re reading, spell and write well.

Processing Speed

Processing speed is to do with how quickly children process information and instructions (written or verbal). It’s the time between hearing an instruction and the brain responding to it. It’s absolutely not about intelligence. It’s not unusual to find very intelligent dyslexic children with processing speeds that are slower than non-dyslexic child of the same age.

Memory and Working Memory

Difficulties keeping things in short-term memory and transferring them into long-term memory can be a part of dyslexia.

Working memory is slightly different – this is about keeping one thing in your head whilst listening to or processing another. Dyslexic children typically find it difficult to keep a string of instructions in their head and find it easier if those instructions are given individually. If you need to write down telephone numbers in groups of 3 or 4 figures, you may have this difficulty too.

Can my child have some of these difficulties?

If your child has all three of these difficulties, it’s possible that your child could be dyslexic.

If 1 or 2 of these issues are present, it’s likely that your child will find it harder to learn, but would not be felt to be dyslexic.

How can I check this out?

Tutor My Kids offers dyslexia screening which will allow you to quickly and cheaply see if dyslexia is a concern with your child.

Is-there-ever-a-reason-not-to-test-for-dyslexia?

Dyslexia is a cluster of symptoms which can cause students to find reading, writing, processing information quickly and remembering things tricky. Take a look at Could my child be dyslexic for more details.

Reasons to test for dyslexia

There are several good reasons to test for dyslexia. If you know the areas that your child is having difficulties, you and school can help with those areas. If there are processing issues highlighted as part of the dyslexia, this might suggest that investigating extra time in GCSEs and A levels – take a look at Could my child get extra time for GCSEs and A levels.

Potential reasons not to test

Some parents are concerned the by having a dyslexia screening, it may ‘label’ their child as dyslexic. Increasing numbers of well-know successful people (Jamie Oliver, Richard Branson) have helped to finally dispel the myth the dyslexia means stupid, which is a fantastic as this has been a huge injustice to people with dyslexic traits.

I think the only reason that I have ever come across for not testing is a child I taught once, who declared that he couldn’t do that (the piece of work) because he was dyslexic. However, this really isn’t a reason not to screen for dyslexia as much as a lesson in how you communicate that information to your child.

Many children find it hugely reassuring that there is reason why they find some things harder than their peers. This can be communicated within the context of ‘You may always have to work a little harder than your friends but there are things that we can help you with to make life a little easier.’

Take a look at our dyslexia testing page  , email Rachel or call Rachel Law on 01223 858123 for a chat about dyslexia screening and if it might be right for your child.

 

 

 

4-Reasons-to-Arrange-a-Dyslexia-Screening

1. You’re worried

You may be concerned that your child’s reading or writing is not where you or your child’s teacher might expect it to be. Often parents say that something just doesn’t seem right – maybe your child is bright and excelling at maths but comparatively weak in English. Maybe they’re very verbally articulate but can’t put their ideas down on paper well. Take a look at Could My Child be Dyslexic for typical symptoms.

2. You’d like to put your mind at rest.

A dyslexia screening is a relatively inexpensive and often quicker to arrange than a full diagnostic report from an Educational Psychologist. It gives a good level of detail to put your mind at rest that there are no issues in that area or give you information to help and pursue more detailed testing if needed.

3. You’d like school to help

Dyslexia is no longer a condition which the council will ‘statement’ for and there is no obligation for them to help. In our experience, however, schools do help as much as they can and find our screening reports on pupils’ strengths and weaknesses useful. If they are not already putting interventions in place for your child, they can (subject to school budgets) arrange these.

4. You’d like to help your child’s confidence

Children with dyslexia or dyslexic tendencies can feel that they are stupid because they’re not able to read, write or spell as well as their peers. This is, of course, completely rubbish but it can affect a child’s sense of self-belief very badly. Realising that there’s a reason why they find some things hard can be really liberating.

Get in touch

Contact Rachel Law on 01223 858421 for an informal chat or email Rachel. Rachel can advise if a dyslexia screening would be a good option or if other options might be better for you and your child.