Graduate's app aims to enhance children’s reading skills

A primary school teacher and Plymouth University graduate has created a new app designed to improve children’s reading skills through interactive gaming.

Fonics, created by Sophie Cooper, is designed for three to six-year-olds and uses games as a means to teach basic language skills.

She believes it can be a valuable resource for teachers and students, but also enable parents to gain a better understanding of ways they can enhance their child’s literary skills.

Sophie is currently a teacher at Castle Primary School in Tiverton, Devon, having previously studied BA (Hons) Art History and a PGCE Primary Education at Plymouth University.

The 25-year-old said:

“The way we learn in schools is changing, with digitalisation and e-learning becoming major players in the classroom. Tools that can instantly track and record a student’s progress allow teachers to review their class’s work at the end of each day, enabling them to tailor tomorrow’s lessons specifically to the needs of their class. And by making the lessons fun, students are learning without even realising.”

The app has been developed thanks to a grant from Virgin StartUp, a not-for-profit organisation created by Virgin Group and the Government’s Start Up Loans Company.

It follows the National Curriculum in England, and each student has their own game, their own score and their own level – allowing them to improve their reading at their own pace.

They are guided through this process by Albee, a friendly alien who interacts with drawings of the nouns when they are correctly pronounced. He also joins the celebrations when a student correctly answers questions and congratulates them for going up a level.

The app also includes bookmarks which go home in the student’s books each night and are designed to help parents understand how they can best help their children’s reading progress.

Fonics also helps teachers prepare for the 'Screening Check', the first official test of a student’s career, which measures their ability to read 32 out of 40 words correctly. In 2014, over one in four children failed this check.

Sophie added:

“Reading attainment has rightly received great focus in the past few years, and there have been great improvements, but there is more work to do. In fact, it is the thought that over a quarter of the country are falling behind in their very first test of their school careers that drives me, and I hope that students enjoy playing Fonics so much that we can help to increase literacy rates not only in England but around the world.”

Fonics is set to be formally launched at the end of January, but it is available now via an Early Adopters Club whose members will be eligible to win special prizes for their class such as books or trips. For more information, visit www.fonics.co.uk.

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