I’ve seen lots about the Reading Eggs programme over the last few months, but not done anything about subscribing. When we were offered the chance to try it, I jumped at the chance.
I’m really trying to encourage an interest in letters and numbers for N and have done so since he started talking. To be honest, it’s not been going that well, and is mostly restricted to doing letter jigsaws (he used to like them, now he’s not fussed as he prefers picture jigsaws of vehicles or animals) and lots of reading. He’s only just really started showing an interest in recognising his name and learning to write it…well, the letter N on repeat. It’s not his cup of tea at the moment.
N is quite keen on playing app games (mostly educational although not specifically learning letters, and he’s run out of levels to do on his favourite one) since I got my tablet and I think a touch screen is much easier for him to use. He uses a mouse on the laptop at nursery school, but at home I usually have my laptop on my knee so it’s a lot harder to use the touchpad/mouse on that.
The hardest thing is finding the time to do educational games with him. Working full time, and with N in nursery, it means getting him when he’s not tired is limited to first thing in the morning before we actually get up and start doing morning routines. Unfortunately getting into a routine of doing this every morning would mean getting up at 6.30 each day, and setting up a learning time for him each morning. It’s just not going to happen, so we’re using the programme as and when he’s happy to do it. It’s never going to be the best way of doing it, but grabbing time as and when is better than none at all.
What do we like about the programme?
1. Ease of set up
It’s easy to set up the logon and the child’s details according to name and age. There’s a parent area, and you can set up several children on the one account.
2. Simple learning
It introduces the letters one at a time and in bitesize chunks. Each letter has various tasks, incorporating visual, sound, repetition, recognition and writing. Each time the child gets tasks right, they get eggs, until they move on to the next task, and then through to the next letter. N’s at the bottom end of the 3-7 year age range, and coped really well. He recognised the letter really quickly, but that did mean he got bored quickly as it was too much of the same for him.
There was one task which didn’t make sense to me as we were only on letter 1. One of the final tasks was sight words, with 3 or 4 letter words that you drag to the right picture. As N only knows one letter, I thought that game didn’t really work. I had to vary the game by speaking the word and asking him where the word should go to. We’d have been there forever if we’d followed the game and let him do it all himself. It felt like that task should have been further down the line once he knows more letters.
3. Measurement. While not all people believe in measuring children’s abilities, knowing where they’ve reached and what needs to be worked on is relevant for anyone in life. Reading Eggs show you the number of eggs achieved and reading age assessment for a variety of tasks; there’s a variety of options in the dashboard on the app so the parent can go in and find out more about learning, levels and what to practise.
4. It’s a game.
To N, it’s a game rather than learning and that’s definitely key. He likes the characters, and it’s funny seeing them pop up in the different games. N’s not really noticed the egg theme, and isn’t on the whole motivated by rewards, so it’ll be interesting whether he wants to work through it to get more eggs, or just to make me happy and have something he enjoys playing. Some friends I’ve spoken to who’ve bought the programme for their 3 year olds, found their children love to try and work towards more eggs, and seem to get on with it a lot better than N.
5. Neutral accent
Yay, phonics spoken by a neutral British accent. No American accents in sight (or sound). There are so many apps out there in American accents, it’s refreshing to find one that isn’t. Much more realistic to get the correct phonic sounds for children in the UK.
6. Free additional/supporting apps
I spotted a range of shorter format apps which have different exercises rather than the whole programme, and these are available in your marketplace – whether GooglePlay or AppStore. Being on Android, there’s only 1 app compared with numerous on iphone. Great when you’re out and about to have a short format version with you to keep children amused…I’d love for the Android offer to catch up with what I presume is a lot stronger and the focus on ios.
7. Programme value
With the programme, there’re several options. The reading eggs is split into age 3-7 and age 7+, so it grows with your child as they progress. There is also Mathseeds, which is sometimes included in whichever subscription offer you pay for. We trialled for a few weeks, and after signing up, there’re often offers. So if you’re not sure at first, you can trial it and then subscribe later, when you know what value you’re going to get. When you break down the cost, it works out around a couple of pounds a week. A bargain in my view, and we’re still to try out Mathseeds.
What did we struggle with?
1. Android capabilities
One of the great things about Reading Eggs is that you’ve got the different options to use it – on computer, tablet or phone. The apps are available on Android and Ipads. Although the Android app isn’t really like a normal app as far as I recognise it, it’s a login via the website.
We struggled with the audio on the android app we’re using on the tablet. Some tasks the audio worked well, others – where you had the choice to hear what the item was by pressing the audio icon, just didn’t work. So I had to guess what the item was and speak it for N to know exactly what the picture represented. One I thought was mouth, but then I found out later in the reading book at the end, was mum. Oops.
3. Speed and responsiveness.
The apps require wifi connection which works for us as mobile data is non-existent at home. We did find the app slow to move onto the next task, or whenever there was a play icon. Sometimes it would work, sometimes it wouldn’t for ages, and I couldn’t work out whether it had crashed or was just slow. I’m presuming this isn’t helped by our slow broadband connection. At 6.30-7 in the morning, that’s usually the fastest time of the day, so it was puzzling and off putting for N.
I think all of the above points are down to the fact that Android development is behind that of ipad app development. Hopefully these points will get ironed out soon. You can check tablet compatibility here.
4. N’s attention span.
It took us the best part of 2 weeks from setting up to writing this for N to progress through the first letter, m. Not because he didn’t know it (he did after 1 session), but because he didn’t want to do more than a couple of tasks. Some seemed to go on a long time, so there was too much repetition for him. Obviously that’s what children need, but it didn’t help his staying power. I’m thinking maybe we need to mix it up with outdoor tasks as he wants to be moving about more.
Overall, I think it’s a great programme. It takes the child through lower and upper cases, writing the shape of the letter, recognising it within a word, and knowing which words begin with the letter.
I’ve already extended my subscription with the programme, and I plan to do some number work with N using Mathseeds, which we’ve not yet looked at. Others I’ve spoken to are really finding it’s helped their early readers; if we can crack suitable times to spend time on it, and N is willing to do a few short sessions a week, then I can see it will really help him progress. Hopefully it’ll give him a bit more focus as he goes into his final year before starting school.
If you want to try out Reading Eggs for yourselves, I have a trial code for my readers UKB27RET. This will give you a 4 week trial (2 weeks more than the standard trial length) to see how you get on.
What activities do you do with your children to encourage their letter recognition and reading?
Disclosure: We were provided with a trial subscription period to enable us to trial and review Reading Eggs. All views and opinions are our own..