Darwin Reader

App review by
Ashley Kemper, Common Sense Media
Darwin Reader App Poster Image
Versatile audio reader requires Bookshare for full value.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

By providing learners easy access to audio books, the potential educational impact of this tool is huge. However, without access to a Benetech Bookshare account, the value may be limited.

Ease of Play

Although younger kids may need help downloading or accessing books within the app, the rest of the tool is very straightforward and easy to use.

Violence

The app itself does not promote violence. However, the text that kids can access through LibriVox and Bookshare is not filtered by this tool and may contain potentially violent language. Adults should help kids select texts that best match their interests and levels.

Sex

The app itself does not promote sexual content. However, the text that kids can access through LibriVox and Bookshare is not filtered by this tool and may contain potentially suggestive language. Adults should help kids select texts that best match their interests and levels.

Language

The app itself does not promote inappropriate language. However, the text kids can access through LibriVox and Bookshare is not filtered by this tool and may contain swear words or slurs. Adults should help kids select texts that best match their interests and levels.

Consumerism

Users need a Bookshare subscription or access to book files in a Daisy (pub) format.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Darwin Reader is an audiobook reader that connects to a user's Benetech Bookshare account or the LibriVox library. The app doesn't provide reading content and instead acts as a reader for other developers' content. Settings within the tool are versatile and easy to use, and kids can adjust the pitch, speed, and volume of the voice reading to them. While in visual mode, sentences are highlighted as they are read, as are the individual words, which promotes visual tracking while reading. Kids also can use many features of the tool by voice, such as opening and navigating books. Note: There was no privacy policy at the time of review.

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What's it about?

Once downloaded, users open DARWIN READER and connect to their Benetech Bookshare accounts (for users with print disabilities), download books from Librivox (public domain texts), or download Daisy books from their computers. On-screen prompts support kids as they download or upload books. Books are listed on the main screen, and kids can access settings from their libraries or while in a book. Via settings, kids can adjust the volume, pitch, and speed of the voice reading their books, as well as the color, size, and style of the font or background. When kids click into a book, reading starts automatically, and the app highlights both sentences and words in different colors. Users can double-tap a word to see its definition or place a bookmark. Within the Librivox or Bookshare tabs, kids can click Voice Search to find whole texts or parts of a text.

Is it any good?

For kids with visual or print disabilities, this app is a win, especially with a valid Benetech Bookshare account. Once kids are in a book, it's easy to use, simple to navigate, change settings, and listen to books. However, without access to Benetech Bookshare, kids may not be able to access the same books their peers are reading, which may not promote a love of learning that struggling readers need to propel their reading growth.

One of the best features of Darwin Reader is the way it highlights full sentences in addition to the individual word as it reads, which promotes good reading habits, such as tracking, for kids with print disabilities such as dyslexia. The audio quality is computerized, but users have so much control over reading settings that it reads better than other computerized voices available to date.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they're reading using Darwin Reader. What problems are their characters facing and what do you think is going to happen next? What lesson is the main character learning? Have the characters changed?

  • Families can foster a love of reading by helping kids pick good books to listen to. Ask kids who their favorite authors are and why. Help kids locate books by the same author, books in a series, or books on topics they show an interest in.

App details

  • Device: Android
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: reading, reading comprehension
  • Skills: Tech Skills: using and applying technology
  • Price: $14.95
  • Pricing structure: Paid
  • Release date: October 15, 2014
  • Category: Education
  • Publisher: VoccaLight
  • Version: 1.4
  • Minimum software requirements: Varies with device

For kids who love reading

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