Guest Post by Zee

After months of trying (and failing miserably) to get my kid to love reading, I finally stumbled upon a kids application that did most of the work for me while still keeping things fun and interesting.<!–more–> While I was trying so hard and desperately trying to get my little angel to read more and to enjoy reading, I did not realize what the problem was until much later. I just did not realize that at that age curiosity comes naturally and attention deficit is the order of the day. I dare you to try and force a healthy, bright-eyed, hyperactive toddler with a wild imagination, a never-ending curiosity and a constant determination to run around and knock things over – to keep calm, sit and read a book. I promise you starting world war three is much easier than getting an active toddler to settle down quietly in one corner of the room and read a book. And the task gets even more herculean if the little one is high on any form of sugar!!

So for months, we battled constantly, mostly in the afternoons. I trying to get him to read and he determined to make my efforts look like child’s play would sit down in the study room for ten seconds, knock the book over and run away laughing. It was all a game to him. And when I finally caught him, with all intentions of scolding him he would blurt out with a huge grin on his face “I love you, mummy”. All my defenses would be broken at that point, all the anger I had would melt away like a corn of vanilla ice cream (his favorite) on a sunny day. I would end up hugging him and then we would be back to square one, he had totally manipulated me, emotionally. Smart kid! That was our afternoon routine. And he would never read even a single word. But everything changed when I found ‘Read With Me kids’.

The name of the app is ‘read with me kids’, very straightforward and obvious on what the app actually does. It encourages and motivates your kid to read. You can actually read together with your kid, making it a fun activity while also enhancing the bond between the parent and child. The app was developed by Qualint, a family owned and operated business based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Reading is a critical and essential life skill and the application seeks to help enhance this skill in all kids. Its main goal is to help kids to read more while encouraging them to learn in the process, as well as to cultivate a reading culture in the society by targeting young kids, making reading interesting and fun for kids of all age groups and helping them love to read. It also aids the kids with difficulty in concentration by creating personalized stories in their own name and with flashy images and colors that capture the attention of the kid.

From a technical point of view, the application is typically a web-based application that executes on different platforms such as the iOS and the Android operating system. Its multi-platform features make it easily accessible to a variety of users. That coupled with the fact that it is free to download makes it such a popular app. Although the app itself is free, it has an in-app purchase for some of the special features in the app such as the feature to order printed books or to download books in pdf format as well as editing features among others. The app also does not come with a trial version or a specified expiry period, neither does it have a subscription period that requires users to re-download the app after a set period. The app is a welcome innovation that guarantees fun writing and reading experiences for kids with personalized stories, personalized images, and books both in hard and soft copy.

The app comes equipped with a variety of interesting features. Being a web-based application it requires one to have constant access to the internet while using this app. Some of its best features may not work without an internet connection. Its basic functionality is to motivate kids to read more and help kids develop an acute interest in reading. It aims to show the kids that reading is a fun activity and this manifests clearly in its design. The Design is quite simple but colorful to attract the attention of the users. Unlike apps that target more mature age groups which have complex user interfaces, this one is as simple as they come. With a display that has only three major sections, a sample story named ‘peter panda sweeps’ with an eye-catching image of the panda that immediately draws the readers’ attention. An introductory section for parents. A hints page for parents. And a red icon that allows users to create customized books and stories. The overall display has a distinct visual appeal to users with customized pictures and playful characters and stories.

The child has a chance to choose with the help of the parent whatever character he wants to portray in the story or in the book, this tends to captivate most kids because they tend to live out their personal lives in the story. Exciting for a toddler! The most captivating feature of this app is the feature that allows you to use personal images directly from your phone while creating your book of choice. Apart from the templates that are available, as a parent, you can include photos of your kid in the book. It furthermore allows you to insert text, resize the text and the images, resulting in a truly personalized literary piece. What I did in our very first book was to include Andrews favorite photo in the cover of the book, and as soon as he saw his picture in the book it immediately got his attention and had him so excited and eager to read on.

In terms of Ease of Use, the app is quite easy to operate with a straightforward interface. The kid has the option to choose between a story template and a story written from scratch i.e. a blank template. As you can probably tell by now, the target audience for this app consists of parents of young kids, and kids aged 3 – 8 years. The app has no sound design features and most of the interaction between the user and the application is by use of the mouse or by touch. It also does not include an artificial intelligence system for communication.

Additional features include an in-app purchase platform that allows one to download stories and books in pdf format, upload books in pdf format, change the format from doc to text and pdf formats. It also has verification and data security features, for instance, first-time users will be given the option to either sign in with a Facebook account, a Google account or via email. Using this option creates an account within the applications database with a secure password that protects sensitive information and restricts unauthorized access. The other option is to use the app without logging in, which is less secure but does not alter the basic functionality of the app. Another important feature is the sharing feature of the app, it allows users to share stories across various platforms across the web mostly social media platforms which means a story you created can be viewed or used by other users on the web.

User Experience and Overall Rating
Since I discovered and started using this app I have witnessed a significant change in the development of my kid. He now takes a genuine interest in reading and sometimes writing which is a huge step considering I had a hard time getting him to settle down before. But the app has been of great help, I can now worry less about his future and his interest in academics since reading is the foundation of all academic endeavors and it is best to nurture a strong reading culture from an early age. I have noticed off-late an influx of younger moms coming to me seeking advice on how they should get their own kids to start reading more often. Whenever someone comes over, I just smile, serve them a glass of their favorite cocktail and show them the app. No complex solutions, no magic, no tutors, no extra learning hours, no special schools or special sessions. Just the app. Andrew (my son) also takes his sessions very positively these days, we have made a number of books together that suit his liking. Now if he wants a superhero book we don’t have to go to the comic book store we just open the app and create a fun adventurous book together with him as the superhero ( he gets a treat whenever he defeats all the villains) and this has made him so much eager and open to reading. And he gets to learn so much nowadays while still treating it as a game!! Best of both worlds really and I couldn’t be happier for him. Am so proud of him. Nowadays our learning sessions usually start a lot more positively, he saunters into my bedroom tablet in hand hops on to the bed and says ‘mummy I want to read the Andrew goes to school story, it is the best because Andrew is a good boy and it has pictures of me and mummy going to school together’.

I personally recommend this app to any parents out there thinking of introducing their kids to books or those having trouble getting their kids to read more frequently or more attentively. With a rating of 4.5 stars on the app store and 4.2 on google play store, this app is a must-have not only for parents but also for educators looking to make reading and learning a fun and enjoyable experience for the kids.

Zee is a mother of three who also happens to be a writer and is very familiar with the issues that parents face. She is a regular contributor for the online parenting magazine Geek Parenting and lives in Jamaica.