Joy of Reading - learn to read

App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
Joy of Reading - learn to read App Poster Image
Varied mini-games focus on phonics; subscription required.

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn to pick out individual sounds of words and match them to corresponding letters. As kids build a word bank, they'll also practice other early reading fundamentals such as rhyming, tracing letters, identifying long vs short vowel sounds, sight words, and more. Finally, kids can put it all together to read short, simple sentences.

Ease of Play

Easily tap and drag to match letters, sounds, and words. 

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

After the first game, content is locked until users sign up for a subscription. Kids earn virtual coins for completing levels and spend coins to play new words.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Joy of Reading - learn to read requires a subscription and uses a phonics based approach to teach young kids to read. The app breaks down new words into their individual sounds. Kids practice identifying each sound, matching them with a letter, and tracing letters. Parents can make multiple user accounts and can also add their own custom words for kids to learn. The free download allows kids to play one level, after which parents must sign up for a subscription. After a free trial, pay for access to Joy of Reading - learn to read and Montessori Preschool, another app from the same developer. At the time of this review, at least one game wasn't working properly. Read the developer's privacy policy for details on how your (or your kids') information is collected, used, and shared and any choices you may have in the matter, and note that privacy policies and terms of service frequently change.

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What's it about?

In JOY OF READING - LEARN TO READ, kids choose a new word to "buy" and play games that break the word down into its individual sounds and letters. For example, for "cat" kids hear what "c" sounds like, match the sound with the letter, and trace upper and lower case versions. Then they repeat the process for "a" and "t." Completed words are deposited in a word bank and new activities unlock as kids collect more words. Other activities put additional focus on individual sounds in words as well as rhyming words, long and short vowel sounds, sight words, compound words, and completing simple sentences. Parents can create multiple user accounts and add their own words.

Is it any good?

These phonics-based games give kids lots of systematic practice identifying the individual sounds in words. In the majority of the Joy of Reading - Learn to read games, kids do some variation of matching a sound to its corresponding letter. But the context around the games changes enough that kids might not notice that they're essentially doing the same thing over and over again. While the word builder always follows a set pattern of phonics exploration, additional games focus on other important early reading tasks and also add some more variety to what kids do in the app. There are a few small design aspects that seem to have been overlooked. For example, midway through the tracing game, kids need to "select the capital letter" without any previous mention or explanation of what a capital letter is. Or, kids earn coins at the end of each game, but there isn't any indication of what those coins do or how many kids have collected. It's also not entirely clear why Joy of Reading - Learn to read requires a subscription rather than a one time purchase fee. But, the subscription does give access to two apps, so families may find it worth the cost.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the words kids learn with Joy of Reading - learn to read. Use the words in sentences as you talk throughout the day. Pay close attention to emphasizing each sound of the words as you say them.

  • Sing songs, recite rhymes, and read as much as you can. All that exposure to language - particularly the singsong language found in songs and rhymes - will help them learn to identify sounds and, eventually, to read.

  • Help kids pick out the sounds in words that are important to them. Names of loved ones, favorite animals or colors, and other familiar words are good options.

  • Use letter blocks, or even letters written on index cards, to move letters around and form new words. Take it up a notch and create groups of rhyming words.

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: letter or word recognition, phonics, reading
  • Price: Free to try
  • Pricing structure: Free to try (free download includes seven-day trial and one game, then $6.99/mo.)
  • Release date: June 3, 2020
  • Category: Education
  • Topics: Numbers and Letters
  • Size: 472.20 MB
  • Publisher: Edoki
  • Version: 1.1
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 9.0 or later; Android 4.2 and up
  • Last updated: July 27, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love letter recognition and learning to read

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