Reader Bee and the Story Tree
With fun activities and stories, this app is great for independent and adult supported learning. Carefully designed to teach effectively, it uses a novel approach to introducing letters and words to young learners and constantly reinforces past learning.
Adorning the title page of Reader Bee and the Story Tree is a set of emblems showing some of the awards that have been presented to it. After some time using this app it is clear that they are well deserved – and indeed this app demands you spend quite a bit of time with it, as it has considerably more staying power than many other apps.
A well designed and educationally sound method of taking children through the learning of letters, spelling and reading teaches, while delightful sound, stories and pictures entertain. Every instruction and other necessary text are clearly narrated in the app and so children can happily engage with it for some independent learning. Of course, this does not preclude an adult supporting them through it as well. A simple profile for each user can be created to allow for a number of children to use this app. This makes it ideal for teachers to use in the classroom.
The steps towards learning begin with tapping an arrangement of pictures and hearing their contents read out. These are referred to as daisies with each petal holding a picture whose name begins with a consonant. The centre is the same, except it begins with a vowel. An emphasis is placed on the initial letter when it is read out to help children understand how it is used in words. To aid in letter recognition and to develop letter formation skills, children are shown how to form the letter and then they trace it themselves. Finally (for this step) they drag an animated letter, called a Wizding, to the picture that has it as an initial. After this is done for each section of the daisy, the next stage begins.
Now the letters are used to form words. Children are shown a word and then they type it using the letters they have already worked with. Another, much longer, stage follows this: a story. These are so beautifully illustrated and animated that together they could have formed an app by themselves. The stories use the newly introduced words within them and they are highlighted to continue to reinforce the learning.
Finally, children are challenged to spell as many words as they can in a limited time using the letters introduced so far within the app - not just for the current daisy. Indeed this is where the app’s surprising depth and longevity comes in because this whole process is repeated again for each vowel and another group of consonants until all of the letters of the alphabet have been taught.
One improvement for the app would be to use a broader dictionary for its spelling games. While, most words are recognised, there are gaps such as the word ‘ear’. This use of ‘ea’ is not focussed on in the app but it seems unfair to tell children, who may know it, that it is not a word, particularly when ‘pea’ is accepted. This is a minor oversight, however, that in most cases is unlikely to be noticed.
The app goes the extra mile to help parents too. In the parental section, advice is given on how children are taught at school, how to assist their child’s learning, both within the app and away from it, and this is taken further in the developer’s active and useful social media. There are few apps with such consistently high production values, even fewer with such care taken over their educational value and those that are, are rarely priced as keenly as this one. Superb.
From the Developer
Winner of six major awards including the Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award, 2014. Every game in Reader Bee works together to create the golden “aha” moment when letters become words, words become stories and your child becomes a reader. Learning to read with this app is a joy.
Kids get just the right information at the right time for their growing brains to take in sounds and shapes of letters. Working with six consonants around one vowel in a simple arrangement called a daisy gives them a physical experience of the vowel’s special place in words. They learn it with their ears and with their fingers as well as with their eyes – a dynamic combination that research shows creates strong neural connections. With just that one daisy kids can make real words. When you add the rest of the daisies, they have the whole alphabet at their fingertips. And now you can view their progress in the app on the progress screen.
About the Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Award, 2014: “given to only the highest quality children’s products in the interactive media category. These are 'no fail' products…able to keep children engaged for days at a time.”
2015 Mom’s Choice Award®
2014 National Parenting Center Seal of Approval
2014 Dr. 100 Best Toys (not just apps!)
2014 Dr. Toy 10 Best Technology Toys for Children
2014 National Parenting Publications Silver Winner
AgesToddler Apps (0-3 Years)
Reception/Preschool Apps (3-5 Years)
Primary School Apps (5-7 Years)