Reading Apps for Kids Are a ‘Digital Wild West’

Reading Apps for Kids Are a ‘Digital Wild West’

HOW THE WEST WAS WON: “The app market this spring felt a lot like a digital Wild West, with learn-to-read apps popping up seemingly overnight and little to no information on whether the developers had backgrounds in early literacy or whether the apps were vetted by reading experts or evaluated in any way.” So says a report from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, New America Foundation and the Joan Ganz Cooney Center Workshop, which offers a snapshot of 137 of the most popular literacy apps and e-books from Apple and Google stores in April 2012, along with games and websites reviewed by Common Sense Media. The authors, who broke down this sample based on interactive features and skills taught, found that most cover only “very basic literacy skills that would not be useful for children who are beginning to learn skills like grammar and storytelling.”

That should worry everyone charging into the education apps field. Entertainment is dandy. But if the apps are really about "learning," entrepreneurs should have data to back their claims.

Apps alone can't teach a kid, of course. It takes a village--or at least a couple of attentive adults. The report further highlights promising digital outreach projects and public engagement efforts that support educators and parents in early childhood development. It’s only with these collaborative efforts, it says, that can help “homestead the Wild West.”

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