App review by
Mieke VanderBorght, Common Sense Media
WhizRead App Poster Image
Small library of multimedia texts has value but needs work.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Kids can learn about a handful of important famous figures, animals, and historical events. They'll practice reading with a focus on comprehension. Multimedia features may help kids fill in the gaps when they come across words, concepts, or phrases that they don't understand.

Ease of Play

Navigation is mostly clear-cut if sometimes a bit awkward. Tools can be slow to load.

Violence & Scariness

Some passages contain descriptions of violence, such as Revolutionary War battles, or treatment of enslaved people.

Sexy Stuff
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that WhizRead's text passages for elementary and middle schoolers include embedded media features that are designed to help kids' reading comprehension. As kids read a passage, they can tap on words or phrases to find definitions, pictures, and/or videos that demonstrate meaning. Video content is from YouTube, and clips can range from a few seconds to an hour or more. Kids can also hear words, phrases, or the whole passage read out loud by a computer-generated voice. Parents must provide a name and email address -- and then verify their email address -- to sign up and access WhizRead's content. The passages included in the app range from animal-themed non-fiction for younger kids to profiles of famous historical figures for older kids. Parents and kids can also upload their own text passages, which then get automatically enriched with embedded media, photos, and/or video content. To do that, parents need to request an access code by emailing the developer. 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?

To enter WHIZREAD, parents must create an account by providing a username, password, email address, and full name (kids over 13 years of age can create their own account). After parents verify their email address, they can log in and choose a reading level -- from K - 6th grade -- to browse passages. Choose from the list of non-fiction text passages and start reading. Adjust the font type and size or search the text for particular words. Tap on words or phrases to see additional content such as definitions, pictures, or videos. Tap the audio button to hear the text read aloud, or take a comprehension quiz when you're done reading. Download texts to add them to your library. Request an access code to upload or compose customized passages, which then get linked to definitions, pictures, videos, and a read-aloud option.

Is it any good?

The idea of directly linking resources to help with comprehension turns out to be a bit better in theory than in delivery in this collection of reading material. There's certainly potential for an app that gives kids a variety of ways to understand text and give it meaning. The option that allows users to link their own text to these enhancement features is pretty cool (when and if it works). However, WhizRead feels like an app that could benefit from some additional development. It seems as though the pictures, videos, and audio links are chosen through a search engine rather than an actual person. This results in some odd choices. For example, "North America" is linked to a one-hour long NOVA documentary and an audio track of running water. There is a limited number of included passages, and though they are mostly well matched to their target reading level, they're of variable quality. The computer-generated voice is an easily accessible option for reading text out loud but unfortunately sounds awkward. With so many linked resources, they end up being a potential distraction from the business of actually reading. Finally, though WhizRead is fairly well laid out, some navigation -- such as when kids finish a quiz, or when they want to download a text -- is a bit unwieldy. As a free resource, WhizRead may prove useful for some kids, but needs some improvement to really shine.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what kids learn from the text passages in WhizRead. Read the passage first and then go back to look at the pictures and watch the videos. If a topic interests them, help your kids research it to find out more.

  • Provide as many opportunities for your kids to read as you can, on and off the screen. Encourage them also to read out loud and listen as they read.

  • Involve your kids in creating their own passages to upload. What do they want to write about? How do you find accurate information?

App details

  • Device: iPad
  • Subjects: Language & Reading: reading, reading comprehension, text analysis, vocabulary
    Social Studies: historical figures, history
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: February 28, 2019
  • Category: Education
  • Topics: History
  • Size: 39.80 MB
  • Publisher: Vizread LLC
  • Version: 1.9.3
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 9.0 or later
  • Last updated: December 18, 2019

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