One of the most well-known reading schemes from when most of us teachers were younger has got to be Ladybird’s ‘Read it Yourself’ books. This scheme has recently been given a new lease of life, with clearly colour-coded front covers to mark its four reading levels and a wide range of new titles, including the popular Peppa Pig, Charlie and Lola and even a few Topsy and Tim books.
Ladybird have just released a ‘Read-it-Yourself’ App that can be bought and downloaded for use on both Android tablets and iPads. This bright, engaging storybook app is easy to get to grips with and is clearly organised on the main screen into four reading levels that mirror the printed books. These introduce readers to a wide range of language and high frequency words are repeated throughout each title to aid progression.
As part of the initial price of the app you get four books, one from each of the levels and further ebooks can be purchased via an in-app store. Within the app (and on their website) Ladybird state clearly what each level covers to inform adults where to place starting readers.
Once the appropriate level has been ascertained, a quick click on the selected book starts the download function. Unfortunately on both IOS and Android, we found that the included books are somewhat glitchy to download and the app doesn’t appear to be formatted correctly for use on a 7-inch Android screen, with text contained at the top of the screen being cut off, which effects reading greatly.
There are various clever and well-considered functions contained within the digital books that can be utilised to good effect within the classroom or at home. Ladybird suggest that the app could be used within a guided reading session and the interface allows quick swiping of pages and the ability for words to be highlighted (and read aloud if the volume is turned up).
When children are just starting on a level, the app provides a ‘Read it to me’ function so that children can both hear the words clearly and see the words being highlighted. This is a very effective tool and one that I feel would be very useful to model new words, blends or punctuation as the child can hear how the sentence should be read. Individual words can also be tapped upon so that the user can hear how they should sound. Unfortunately the size of the text on the pages of the digital books is rather small, which is something that needs to be able to be adjusted so that all children (including ones with any visual impairments) can access the books easily.
As the reader develops in confidence, the ‘Read it myself’ function can be used, which has the option for the child to record their own voice and play it back to themselves or others. This ability could be very useful for children to share with an adult how they are progressing and to keep a close eye on pupils during an independent reading session in class whilst a teacher is focusing on another group.
What I particularly like about this app is that whilst it really does bring the classic ‘Read it Yourself’ books to life in a fun and engaging manner, Ladybird haven’t tinkered with the pages of the traditional books too much. They are presented well, digitally, but the images don’t come alive and bounce around the page. This, in my opinion, is good as the focus is on the reading and comprehension and not on interactive games, which makes this app a useful tool for teaching, both at home and school.