If you’ve ever worked with an early reader, it’s a sure bet that you’ve used the “sound it out” method. Seeing as how the English language is a beast to learn (even when it’s your native language) this method is one of the easiest and most effective when it comes to phonetics.
Read Along is the app equivalent of this method, utilizing sophisticated voice recognition software to “grade” a child’s pronunciation. Different sentences with accompanying illustrations are presented and children read and record the words. The app then highlights each word in green, yellow, or red depending on how well the word was pronounced.
This app is perfect for the readers who are just starting to “sound it out”. Most of the sentences are free of grammar, capitalization, or big words with difficult letter combinations (“i” before “e”, anyone?), and this eliminates a lot of confusion and frustration. The pictures help with visual representations of the word groupings. Two “stories” are included with the download and additional “books” are available as in-app purchases at $0.99 each.
I always run through each app I download before handing the iPad over to my kids, regardless of whether the app is an “official” review or one we found on our own. In the interest of full disclosure, Read Along never even made it to see the light of day with my kids. While the voice recognition is quite impressive and the user interface is very easy to navigate, I was really disappointed by some of the sentences. One even mentions a “happy nuclear missile”.
In my opinion there’s really no point in learning to read if the words make no sense when put together. It almost seems as though these sentences were written in a non-English format and then translated using some sort of unreliable software. There is some real potential with this app and the voice recognition, but at a download price of $1.99 it’s not worth the price until some minor tweaks are made.