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Wednesday, October 4th
You may have heard of Duolingo, an app that teaches you new languages. The main app has a membership, ads and in-app purchases. However, they just came out with a new app geared towards teaching children to read and it is 100% free. You read that right, there are no ads, in-app purchases or subscriptions to buy. Available both for Android and iOS devices, Duolingo ABC is a learn to read app that is part of the Duolingo family. It is geared towards children ages 3-6 years of age.
Follow a story path
After you sign into the app, there is a cute story about Duo the mascot and his friend creating a storyline for your child to follow with various tasks to complete. It starts with an activity in which the child spells a familiar word, their name. They then move on to other activities including spelling of words, repeating letter sounds, and the app reading books to your child.
Letter and shape tracing
There is also letter and shape tracing - although it doesn't require you to trace the entire letter, which we feel is a flaw. Another negative we found was that while it starts by asking your child's name and age, Duolingo does not tailor the lesson to their level. You will need to play around with the app to find the correct level of difficulty.
Duolingo's learn to read program is fairly new, having been launched in March 2020. They have over 300 fun short learning lessons to assist your child in learning how to read. They advertise that they have an entertaining phonics program that teaches through play. There are also short stories that have funny characters and storylines.
Some positive feedback from parents
There are a fair number of positive reviews on the app store pages for Duolingo's learn to read system. One parent stated that the app does exactly what it promises, which is to teach children how to read. It is cute and engaging for preschoolers to learn. Another parent claimed their preschooler can't wait to get on the app each day to learn and open new doors on the game.
But also some negatives
The negative reviews seem to be linked to not being tailored to each child, issues that were soon fixed by updates, and the layout of the app itself. The updates are important to check for when dealing with an app, as they can fix bugs and glitches in the program.
Where is Duolingo lacking?
In general, the Duolingo app is cute but basic. Compared to other learn to read programs out there, this one seems to be lacking depth. The free price point makes the download worth it and it's fun for young children to play, but Duolingo ABC would most likely not hold the interest of children in kindergarten and up as it is very repetitive and for beginners. The app fulfills its purpose of assisting children in learning to read, yet compared to other similar programs out there, Duolingo ABC comes up short.
The most common tools used to teach literacy to children are phonics and sight words. Phonics tends to be an easier skill for children as they are able to sound out the letters to create a word. Sight words can be trickier because they are words that just need memorized as they do not follow the rules when it comes to reading the English language.
Learn to read programs can be helpful for children as they tend to be game-based. Children love to play games and they do not necessarily realize they are learning. When looking at a learn to read program, you can expect it to offer some type of fun activity for children to do. Some programs go above and beyond this with other school subjects being covered or worksheets to print out.
Also, spelling can be an important part of learning to read. This helps children find patterns in words and how to read multiple that follow the same rule. An example is if you can spell light and know that the "gh" is silent, then you can read might, tight, and so on.
As you consider different learn to read programs, there are a few key aspects you'll find to be most important:
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