Pros: So much content, kids can play many sessions and barely scratch the surface.
Cons: Some of the app`s verbal praise ("Wiggly ears cheers!") can get annoying, and paid content is displayed alongside free content.
Bottom Line: Concrete phonics learning alongside books, songs, storytelling, and art.
What`s It Like?
Learn with Homer is a learn-to-read app for kids ages 3 to 6 that incorporates drawing, voice recording, stories, songs, and more, along with more traditional phonics exercises. A beautiful map on the main page presents all of the options kids can explore: Learn to Read, Story Time, Discover the World, and Homer`s Clubhouse. Clear verbal instructions guide kids in all areas. In Learn to Read, kids tap and listen to a lesson, play activities, and review before moving on to the next lesson. In Discover the World, kids tap on a bright photo to select a subject within the categories of science, art, history, or literature. Story Time houses book options. Kids choose "read-to-me" or "I`ll read it." The Clubhouse is where kids find free-drawing and recording, and a pinboard displays their work. Up to three kids can have individual user accounts on one app, and teachers can view progress of each kid aligned with their account. Learn With Homer is an excellent beginning reading resource.
One quibble with this otherwise fantastic app: Kids can see the paid content alongside the free content, which could lead to frustration for kids in the target age range. For example, the first two reading lessons are free, but the next lessons in the row require in-app purchases. More separation between the free and paid content would be ideal.
Is It Good For Learning?
Learn with Homer is an outstanding way to get kids excited about reading. The systematic phonics lessons here can help kids learn letter sounds, letter (capital and lowercase) and word recognition, critical thinking while reading, and reading comprehension. By reading or listening to the stories, kids can also learn about animals, historic figures, world cultures, music, and other topics relevant to their lives. There`s lots of interesting content about things like frogs and world music, fiction, poetry, songs, and a free-drawing feature, so even kids who aren`t quite ready to read or haven`t been bitten by the love-of-reading bug can find something fun. As kids make voice recordings and draw pictures, they are learning digital creation skills. The app includes plenty of positive feedback ("Hooray and Happy Day!" and "Wiggly ears cheers!") but it can feel a bit over-the-top after a while. So much content, kids will have something new to read, listen to, or try for months.
How Can Teachers Use It?
Learn With Homer can be an excellent self-guided phonics experience for kids of a wide range of pre-reading and early reading skills levels. For students needing more motivation to practice phonics, employ the "Learn to Read" section (which contains the phonics lessons) first, then use the other parts of the app as a reward for time spent completing lessons. There are so many beautifully, creatively illustrated stories from numerous genres on Learn With Homer. Take advantage of the app`s library as a source for your read-aloud time and recount these well-chosen stories, poems, and folk tales with dramatic flair to captivate your student audience. This app encourages kids to think critically about what they`ve read or listened to through answering questions via multiple choice, voice recording, and drawing. Consider using drawing as a reading comprehension tool for content read in the classroom, too.