Learning English for kids -- there's an app for that, too
The British Council offers a way for your child to learn English phonetically through a series of 8 stories cleverly simulated as an interactive iPad storytelling application.
The British Council has released an iPad app called “LearnEnglish Kids: Phonics Stories”, that teaches your kids to read based on a UK phonics literacy programme called “Letters and Sounds”. The app features 8 stories, each emphasising different sets of phonetic sounds used in the English language.
Why the emphasis on phonics?
Phonics is a way of teaching reading which helps children understand language they see by introducing letters by their sound rather than name. This encourages them to connect the words they see with the words they hear.
When we spell letters we usually use the names of individual letters. So we say the first three letters of the alphabet like this: ‘ay, bee, cee’. But it can be easier for children to start by learning the sounds letters make, for example the word ‘cat' is sounded ‘c-a-t' not ‘cee-ay-tee'.
There are 26 letters in the alphabet but phonics uses about 44 sounds that combine or ‘blend’ to make words in English. Students are also taught to recognise sounds made by combinations of letters such as ‘ch' and ‘sh'.
The idea is that children see letters or combinations of letters and they are able to say the sound the letters make. They can then put these sounds together to make words.
Putting the iPad to good use for your child
LearnEnglish Kids: Phonics Stories, the British Council’s second app for young learners, takes full advantage of the iPad’s technical capabilities and features crisp, high-definition illustrations, read-along audio narration and hundreds of interactive flaps and buttons for an engaging and dynamic reading experience.
The US$1.99 app comes with a complimentary first story called The Dog, where we follow two space aliens called Sam and Pam on a quest to learn the English language. The first three paid stories are currently available and the others will be released thereafter.
The app also includes a parent’s guide written in six languages: English, Cantonese, Thai, Korean, Japanese and Traditional Chinese, so parents are able to teach children using specific activities and exercises recommended by British Council.
Overall, it’s a noble effort by the British Council to give parents justification for allowing their children some educational play on a tablet device. If you’re looking to give your child a little English language boost -- both in reading and writing -- you will want to give this one a try.