Reader Bee – Teaching Children to Read Faster?

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Synopsis

A new iPad app for Pre-K and Kindergarten children teaches reading faster and in a more effective and entertaining way.

Crafted by an extraordinary woman – Ann H. McCormick, Ph.D.Reader Bee starts with the basics. Every aspect of Reader Bee is deeply thorough – from the simplified teaching method to the aesthetics of the color pallet. Reader Bee recently received the Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award, given to only the highest quality children’s technology products.

The Creativity Post asked Ann a few questions about the app and her company’s unique approach to reading.

The Creativity Post: Why did you create Reader Bee?

Reader Bee: The goal is to give all children a fair chance at learning to read. Growing up, I experienced reading disabilities in my family. I know first-hand how challenging it is to overcome illiteracy. So I set out to create an original solution that makes reading fun and easy.

The Creativity Post: With approximately 67,000 educational apps available on iTunes, why do we need another app? How is Reader Bee different?  

Reader Bee: Most apps take a traditional educational approach and simply digitize it. Reader Bee uses a completely new approach called the Honeycomb Reading method. It limits what is presented to the child during each session, linking sounds, letters, words and stories in a step-by-step reading roadmap.

Reader Bee forms a solid foundation in systematic phonics, explicitly taught in a fun and innovative way. The fast progress boosts confidence in learning. And the simplicity ensures children won’t fail, encouraging them to continue learning.

The Creativity Post: You are calling this app the “next step in systematic, explicit phonics.” Can you elaborate on this new method, which educators with decades of experience designed? How is the new approach used in your app?

Reader Bee: Absolutely! A child may know a letter, the sound it makes, and how to trace it, but he or she may not understand that the letter can be used in multiple words. Research proves the effectiveness of teaching kids phonics explicitly – removing sounds and letters from whole text to eliminate guessing and instill sound-symbol relationships – and systematically is a solid and long-standing method. Reader Bee was built around this concept.

It’s the “next step” because children go from not reading to reading at the simplest level. Through the Honeycomb Reading method, children learn seven sounds and trace the matching lowercase letters. A “Letter Daisy” helps them create three-letter words using only these seven letters. Next, kids discover the same words in a story, complete with animations to clarify the word meanings. Additional typing and spelling games further cement the child’s experience with these seven letters. Then the process starts over with another seven letters, until all 26 are mastered.  For each letter, only one shape (lower case), one sound (short vowels and the main sound of consonants) and one keyword picture are used, vastly lowering the conceptual load for children.

With Reader Bee, children quickly grasp the alphabetic principle. I don’t know of another phonics program that uses this extremely workable and logical arrangement.

The Creativity Post: What is a Letter Daisy and why do we need them?

Reader Bee: A Letter Daisy is a hexagonal cluster of letters – six consonants and one vowel. I studied analyses of over a billion pages of text to determine how often sets of 3 letters make words. The letters on each Letter Daisy are arranged to help children identify letters and learn how to form words quickly. Letters that easily make words are placed near one another, like “cat, hat, sat” or “fed, red, hen.” At the same time, I kept the letters in the most frequently used words in English next to one another, so kids could swipe through the most important sight words with a single stoke, the, is, to, and, etc.  This was quite a puzzle!

In about three minutes, the Reader Bee Letter Daisy helps children rapidly progress from hearing sounds to tracing letters to forming words.  Toddlers surprised us by reading “man can” and “cat hat” to us. 

The Creativity Post: How will Reader Bee help children learn faster?  

Reader Bee: Children learn the best when they have a limited number of things to tackle at once. Reader Bee helps children begin word formation quickly by limiting them to learning small, usable sets of letters at a time.

So many children have trouble with reading – 1 in 3 never move beyond a basic level. It pays to give them a huge boost early on.

The Creativity Post: What age range was Reader Bee written for?

Reader Bee: The app is for children of all ages. It presents skills recommended for Kindergarten children by the Common Core State Standards, which are widely adopted across the U.S.

Increasingly, children entering Kindergarten are expected to know basic letter shapes and sounds. Reader Bee is a great starting point for any beginning reader, whether working ahead or reviewing previously learned skills. In fact, I have seen success in children as young as 18-months. The app is also a great resource for children with learning disabilities.

The Creativity Post: Isnt it bad for young children to be on an iPad?

Reader Bee: Many believe that iPads or touch screen devices are bad for young children. The American College of Pediatrics is now changing its guidelines to reflect research rather than speculation. Carefully selected apps can provide powerful learning experiences for young children. Plus, many parents just want to make sure their children are occupied in a safe manner while they’re busy.

I believe that children need to jump, run and play. Reader Bee acts as a bridge from screen time to real-life experiences. The younger children are, the more they need “whole body experiences.” Children need to learn with all of their muscles and senses, while playing with other children and family members.

The Reader Bee website provides off-screen activities for every on-screen game. The app is created to encourage children to transition between on-screen learning and off-screen experiences.

Reader Bee sets a new standard in apps – rich educational value that goes way beyond entertainment. Parents across the nation spend thousands upon thousands per year on educational toys and apps. Yet, when it comes to apps, parents must pay close attention to the educational content. Reader Bee not only entertains the child, it actually builds real reading skills and helps children thrive in school and beyond.

The Creativity Post: How long should a child be using this app?

Reader Bee: It depends on whether the child is working versus being entertained. Children tire easily when they are being challenged. When they are being entertained, it does not take much energy – they can sit for a long time.

I suggest that children use the app for about 10-15 minutes at a time. If the child tires, it’s time to take a break. Plus, kids need time away from the screen. Let them play and run around, then watch as their own curiosity brings them back time and time again.

The Creativity Post: Is Reader Bee, by itself, enough for kids to learn to read?

Reader Bee: Reader Bee is a starting point for children learning basic reading. It supports the alphabetic principle, or the realization that letters make words, and helps them become confident in their reading skills.

Through Reader Bee, children gain phonemic awareness. They’re able to hear, identify and manipulate the smallest units of sound.  Reader Bee just presents lower case letters, one sound for each.  More apps to cover capital letters, names of letters, long vowels, blends, other phonics skills, poems and story making are currently in development.

The Creativity Post: Do all electronics thwart creativity?

Reader Bee: There is a correlation between sensory exploration and creativity for young children. Electronics can thwart creativity if kids use them mindlessly. However, electronics can also guide kids to challenge themselves, to reflect on what they are learning, to be mindful about how they are spending their time, to notice what state they are experiencing, to get up and move their bodies, to talk about new ideas with friends and family, and to open up to divergent and productive ways of exploring life.

When it comes to learning, I believe it is important to engage in activities that trigger the use of all senses (sight, smell, sound, taste and touch), as well as both small and large motor skills. Reader Bee created a new, multi-sensory approach to learning. It provides children with activities that involve multiple senses, prompting them to think creatively during off-screen play and relate to what they are learning on-screen. Reader Bee is packed with games, stories and activities that entice children to learn how to read in a fun and innovative way.

The Creativity Post: Are we in a “new time” for learning?

Reader Bee: Definitely! Today, learning – both in and out of school – has changed entirely with advanced technology. If we can read, we’re able to learn almost any desired subject by searching online, and individuals are able to soak in vast amounts of information like never before. Unfortunately, the easiest path is not creative – it’s passive.

As we embed content into this new technology, we need to enable our children’s creativity by providing marvelous electronic environments never before possible. I believe that Reader Bee is a next-generation learning tool that starts kids on this path. 

 

For more information and off-screen materials for additional learning, visit www.ReaderBee.com.

 

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Tags: ann h. mccormick, apps, early education, education tools, reader bee, reading, systematic phonics, technology

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