PocketPhonics Stories

App review by
Amanda Bindel, Common Sense Media
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Step-by-step phonics program more instructional than fun.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn to read independently with PocketPhonics Stories. They'll start by learning letter sounds and letter formation -- uppercase or lowercase, cursive or print -- and then build words. From there, they'll read books made from words created from the sounds they've already mastered, building on that until they're reading fluently. Kids are evaluated on a one-, two-, or three-star system for each level, based on how accurately they form the letters and the answers to the quizzes. They can replay levels to improve their score and work toward mastery. PocketPhonics Stories is a focused, complete way to teach kids to read, though it's best used with an adult, as it isn't the type of app that kids will want to play again and again for fun.

Ease of Play

Verbal instructions walk kids through the activities, which advance automatically or require tapping an arrow.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that PocketPhonics Stories is a comprehensive phonics program to teach kids to read. It's designed for multiple kids, so it's great for a classroom or family with more than one emerging reader. Parents set up a class or group and then add each reader. Kids master a set of letter sounds, a mix of vowels and consonants, and then read books built around those sounds. Parents can view reports of a kid's progress through the letter sounds and books as well as how much time a kid spent on them. You can get emailed notifications, if enabled, when kids complete a lesson, and you can print a certificate. There is a version that's free to try and allows you to buy certain letter sounds individually.

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What's it about?

POCKETPHONICS STORIES lets parents set up the account, choosing the handwriting style, letter case, and difficulty levels, and then kids focus on activities related to a set of six letters at a time. They trace the letters, saying the letter sound, and then build words using those letters. Once they've mastered the letters, they move on to reading one of 42 short books focused on the letter sounds mastered, plus a few sight words. The books include a quiz that tests word recognition, which must be mastered before moving on to the next set of letter sounds. If kids answer incorrectly, a few choices are eliminated, and they can try again. They can replay books and letter sounds until they've mastered them.

Is it any good?

While pricey, this complete program for teaching kids to read offers a lot of material, customization, and reporting. It's very effective and covers a lot of ground, but it's not a jazzy and fun app, as many preschool apps are, so it may not be an app kids choose to explore on their own. Parents can encourage kids to put in a little time each day working through the program by printing the certificates they earn or by just sitting with them while they work through the activities and books.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the different ways to write the letters they're learning in the app. Try drawing them in sand or salt, writing them on a dry-erase board, or writing them in different-colored markers.

  • Read widely with kids outside of the app, having them read beginner books aloud to you and reading more challenging books aloud to them.

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