AppStore User Rating:
Reading Jets A to Z presents the letters of the alphabet to beginning readers. Users trace the capital and lower case forms, choose pictures that begin with the matching sound, and play a matching game using the targeted words starting with the focus sound.
- Letters available in any order
- Reset feature so letters can be played again
- Three learning games for each letter
- Clear narration of letter names, sounds and target words
- Alliterative robot names that reinforce some letters
Reading Jets A to Z is a high quality app that will help young children work with basic alphabet skills. The directions are clear, but parents and teachers should be aware that the narration is in an Australian accent, which might make it somewhat difficult for some children to follow along. There are also regional differences that become apparent during play, such as naming the last letter of the alphabet as “zed” instead of “zee.” It is possible there are other regional names that American children will be unfamiliar with, so parents and teachers should watch for this. A few pictures also have unexpected names, such as “quack” for a picture of a duck. The letter tracing activity is also specific to Australia, using a font called NSW Foundation Font that is taught in Australian schools. The font is somewhat similar to d’Nealian font that is used in some areas of the United States, particularly as a transition to cursive script. It differs from the more traditional primary fonts in that the letters are slanted and the forms are similar but not exactly the same.
Reading Jets A to Z is a good app, on the whole, to help young children practice alphabet skills. The consistency offered by the three games adds an air of predictability that will suit some children better than others. It is easy to use, and even the very young or children who struggle with independence should be able to master the interface. Users can select any letter from the alphabet array. The app presents a capital and a lower case form for tracing. Each tracing path is shown with animated dots that appear, then the user is to use a finger to follow the same path. However, if the child tries to begin tracing before the dots have fully appeared, the app does not register the first moves, and will count the attempt as incorrect. It also is important to follow the path in the order and direction presented, or the app will not register the attempt correctly. Some children may need additional guidance to learn to use this feature without frustration.
The second game shows a set of ten pictures, five of which begin with the target beginning sound. Users are to tap the pictures that begin with the target letter. If a correct picture is chosen, it is named and then disappears. If an incorrect picture is chosen, the app makes a /n/ sound and says “Try again.” It would be nice if the app would name the incorrect pictures as well as the correct ones, so students could hear the difference in the sounds as well as learn any unusual names that they may not already be familiar with. For example, in the F segment, there was a picture that I would’ve sworn was a “fingernail” or “finger,” but it was not a correct F word. Also, it would be good to exclude words that may confuse young learners. The C segment contained five words beginning with hard C sounds, and also had the word “kite”. Many young children are not yet aware that this word begins with K and not with C. These should be excluded from appearing. Finally, it is a concern that a rapid sequence of tapping pictures will cause the voice to overlap responses. Developers may wish to consider locking down so that further touches do not register until the verbal response has been completed to prevent this.
The third game is a matching game similar to the card game, Memory. It provides a nice review of the target words presented earlier.
Parents and teachers should be aware that after a user completes all three activities for a given letter, that letter cannot be accessed again until an adult resets the app. The procedure is simple, and it can serve to help the adult mentor know which letters have been completed and also to make sure the child plays all letters through before starting again. It could also be a bit of an inconvenience if the goal is free play with the letters.
This app features colorful pictures, simple games and activities, and an animated display after all games for the letter are completed. Children choose a robot “guide” to lead them through the exercises. Each guide has a different look and an alliterative name, but the narrator’s voice does not change for the different guides. The narrating voice offers encouraging comments and reinforcing compliments after each attempt, as well as clear indications of whether the activity was completed successfully. After all three exercises are completed, there is an animated shower of colorful shapes. It might be more entertaining for young users if there were a greater variety of reinforcements for correct work and varied animations at the end of the sequence of games. Many children also respond well to earning time to play an active game, such as catching floating or falling letters that match the target letter. Developers may want to dress up the rewards a bit.
Reading Jets is a good value for young children or beginning readers. It will provide practice with letter order, identification, sounds and key words that begin with the target letter, as well as practice in forming the letters. Some children may get bored with the repetitive nature of the games for each letter, so the app may not have as much staying power as others that teach the same skills.
This app has no outside advertisements or in-app purchases. It is easy for children to use independently. However, there are many unprotected links to the internet, social media and email. All a child needs to do is touch the icon with the lines in the upper right of every screen to access any of these areas. The social media links are not active unless an adult has connected an account for each, but there are links that open the browser, the App Store, and email clients. Developers should consider putting these into a protected area that children cannot access unintentionally.