Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Rhyme to Read App for Beginning Readers

Ask reading teachers what books they use to teach youngsters to decode and they’ll almost unanimously mention controlled texts. These simple books are excellent tools for helping young children gain fluency and automaticity with words. 

Controlled texts tell short, simple stories using a combination of patterned words and sight words. For example, a book that focuses on the “–et” letter pattern might feature a character named Bet and tell a story using words like “wet,” “pet,” “jet,” “get,” etc. alongside common sight words like “the,” “and,” etc. Rhyming words are easier to read because children don’t need to sound out each word in its entirety; they can read many words easily by simply adding a new beginning sound to /et/. The repetitive nature of the wording in the stories helps, too. By reading the same words over and over again throughout the book, developing readers learn to recognize the words by sight instead of having to sound them out each time.

For parents hoping to give their children confidence with decoding, controlled text series can be purchased from many bookstores and websites and even downloaded from the Internet. One of the best is the Bob Books series, and Starfall also offer some good options. One of our favorites, however, is called Rhyme to Read, which is available as an app.

It’s no wonder that Rhyme to Read is great; it was developed by two expert educators. Sara Hines, who has a Ph.D. in Special Education with a focus on learning disabilities, has over 25 years of experience teaching reading and has even spent time teaching at Hunter College. Lynn Laiman, the second author, has a Master’s Degree in reading and has worked in schools for 20 years as both a classroom teacher and reading specialist. Their brainchild gives families access to a wonderful set of digital, controlled texts with the touch of a button.

In the series, new words are introduced on the left page of each book, and children can read sentences containing the words on the right page. This format makes it easy for parents or teachers to preview new words with kids so that they’re more likely to feel successful when they encounter the words in the context of the story. A list of all the words introduced in each book is available on the last page, too, offering a chance for seamless review. The books increase in difficulty throughout the series, and kids will come across words they’ve already learned as they progress to more advanced books.

The first book in the series is free, and the remaining 19 books can be purchased for $9.99 from the iTunes store. As far as apps go, Rhyme to Read is on the pricier side, but this well-designed program is well worth it. It’s far less expensive to buy the digital “books” than it is to purchase a set of leveled readers, for one thing. And Rhyme to Read has capabilities paper books simply don’t. For example, children can tap words to hear them read aloud. Target words, the ones that follow the featured pattern, are read in one voice, and sight words are read in another. Even more ingenious, tapping on the word on the left page, where it is first introduced, plays the word in a segmented way (i.e. “c-at”). This helps them to understand how to attach the new beginning sound (/c/) to the familiar pattern (/-at/). On the right page, though, they can hear the word read fluently (“cat”).

Rhyme to Read has received rave reviews from users, and we are very impressed as well! We hope this thoughtful resource is helpful to you and the young children in your life.

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