Hooked on Phonics Preschool – The Big Reading Show

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Hooked on Phonics Preschool – The Big Reading Show App Poster Image

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Fun but passive early literacy music; bland games.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about some basic early literacy topics. Most content focuses on letters: their names, their sounds, and the roles they play in words. Kids will watch videos and listen to songs about letters and words that begin with those letters. They'll also interact with letters through tracing, rearranging, or matching uppercase and lowercase letters, and they'll practice identifying words that rhyme. Finally, kids play words when they use their word coins to generate silly stories and poems. The general sense of fun, mischief, and whimsy in Hooked on Phonics Preschool - The Big Reading Show may help encourage kids to develop a positive relationship to literacy and reading, but they may not walk away with deep understanding or lots of skills.

Ease of Play

Easy to navigate; interactive elements are easily accessible.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

The free version contains limited content; the rest has a lock on it and requires an in-app purchase. Ungated links take users to ads for other Hooked on Phonics products.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hooked on Phonics Preschool – The Big Reading Show is a musical variety show featuring letters and foundational reading skills themes. Kids watch silly animations, listen to catchy tunes, and play some interactive games in themed episodes. The free version includes one episode; the other 12 are available as an in-app purchase. Because there are no parental gates on the several links within the app, kids can easily tap out of the app and land on an ad for other products, send an email to the developer, or purchase the season pass to unlock additional episodes. Parents may want to switch their devices to airplane mode to help avoid any surprises. Warning: The songs are catchy, so be prepared to have the little ditties continuously running through your head. 

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What's it about?

Join Ella the parrot and Lou the rhino for a musical literacy adventure in HOOKED ON PHONICS PRESCHOOL - THE BIG READING SHOW. Videos and interactive games are grouped together in 13 themed episodes. Each episode guides kids on a path that introduces two letters and focuses on a few early literacy skills, such as rhyming and understanding the basic features of print. As they play and watch, kids collect stars and word coins. Collect enough stars and get a certificate to color; collect word coins to play with the Story Maker, the Poem Roller, or the Spin and Speak.

Is it any good?

Though the limited free version is worth a look for its fun songs and videos, parents might want to save their money for something more interactive. Graphics and animations are great, story lines are just the right level of silly, and the tunes are clever. However, that wonderful content is presentation-focused, meaning kids passively watch and listen. High-quality, inspired interactive elements are disappointingly few. Each episode follows the same pattern of six videos interwoven with three games. With a few exceptions, the games feel like an afterthought, even more so since they aren't related to each episode's letter stars. That is, an episode that introduces the letters L and Q may have a game in which kids uncover T and X from a block of cheese. Why not tie it all together under a common learning theme? As the game is now, coverage of learning content ends up being superficial, and the journey through a single episode feels disjointed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the letters and words they see all around them. Look at billboards, cereal boxes, road signs, and more. 

  • Encourage a love of reading. Take frequent trips to the library, read books together, and help kids sound out words.

  • Play with letter cards. Make a card for each letter of your kid's name and rearrange them to come up with real and made-up words. Make simple words, and change the first letter of your kid's name and talk about rhyming. 

App details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love letters and reading apps

Themes & Topics

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