Kids who are learning to read need a lot of practice. But, there aren’t many books that are designed for early readers to read by themselves. The Reading Train app is designed to remedy the issue. Designed by award-winning teacher Libby Curran, The Reading Train is a digital library that contains a vast selection of mini books to help kids reach reading independence. The aim is to get them to read more and become better readers in the process.
The Reading Train
The first time you open The Reading Train app, you will a see train station. From this screen, you can choose a book from three reading levels (Level 1, 2, or 3), go to the Music Store to listen to songs, or visit the Train Yard to browse the dictionary.
The app has over 200 books grouped by topic, such as colors, animals, vehicles, and life science. You can select whether you want to listen to a book or read it yourself. Optionally, you can record your own narration using a simple interface.
Navigation within a book is simple: just tap on the left or right arrow to go backward or forward. Additionally, you can tap and hold on a word to listen to it spoken aloud. If the word is a noun, you will get a pop-up that contains its definition and illustration.
At the end of each book, you can participate in the Train Game to test your reading comprehension. The app will ask five questions based on the content of the book, and you must answer all of them correctly to earn a new word for your Train Yard and a coin for the Music Shop. The types of the questions are chosen at random, and may include spelling, matching, or sentence comprehension.
The Train Yard and The Music Store
A unique feature in The Reading Train app is the Train Yard, an illustrated dictionary that contains more than 400 words. You also get new words when you successfully complete a Train Game. You can sort these words alphabetically or group them by topic, for example, amphibians, body parts, dinosaurs, pets, places, and many more.
Finally, the Music Store is where kids can use the coins they have earned from the Train Game to listen to incredible catchy songs. More than 10 classic nursery rhymes can be selected, including The Wheels on the Bus, Old McDonald Had a Farm, and Jingle Bells. If necessary, parents can turn on the option to give their kids unlimited coins from the Grown-Ups section.
Parents Need to Know
The Reading Train allows multiple profiles to be setup on the same device, making it suitable for classroom and home usage. It also provides reports for each profile, including how many books have been read and the quiz score for each book. The reports are divided into two periods, This Week and All Time, so you can monitor your kid’s progress over time.
To access the Reports, tap on the Settings button from the main screen. You will need to answer a security question first. From the Grown-Ups section, you can also access the FAQs to help you get started and to choose the right reading level for your child. You will also find links to contact the developer.
It is worth mentioning that The Reading Train is available in two different versions. The Reading Train School is the version we specifically tested in this review, and is a paid app for schools and for those who don’t want to make in-app purchases. The Reading Train is available as a free download with in-app subscriptions to unlock the whole library.
The developer has also released The Reading Train: Alphabet Book, which has similar mechanics but is smaller in scope. The books in the Alphabet Book app are presented in alphabetical order instead of grouped by topic. It includes 24 ABC books at 3 reading levels, or 72 books in all. It also has a free version with in-app purchases.
All The Reading Train apps are fully usable in Airplane mode when we tested them. They do not contain ads, and all materials for parental use (such as reports, contact links, and social media) are only accessible from within a secured section. It is available in American English.
Things I Like
The Reading Train app is the most comprehensive digital library I’ve seen that is specifically aimed at early readers. Each book in the library is only several pages long, but effective to help kids learn new words. Below is a sample I took from The Blue Vehicle Book, which is a Level 1 book:
Here comes a blue car. Here comes a blue helicopter. Here comes a blue airplane. Here comes a blue truck. Here comes a blue motorcycle. Here comes a blue bus. Here comes a blue train.
As you can see, it is very repetitive, which is an essential key to learning to read. The books also feature bold illustrations that engage young kids and enhance their reading experience. They cover many topics, so as kids learn to read they also explore things from colors and animals to seasons and electricity.
After using the app for some time, I can tell that a lot of thoughts went into making it. The navigation is straightforward, and audio guides are always readily available when you need them. Hints will automatically appear when you are idle, or whenever you tap on the wrong things. There are also plenty of encouragements to get kids excited to read again and again.
The only negative I can think of is the inconsistent audio quality; in the Train Game section, some of the phrases would play back at a lower volume than the rest. This is just nitpicking to be honest, and overall I would still recommend the app for parents or teachers who are looking to teach kids how to read in English.
The Reading Train is a vast digital library that entices kids to learn to read through carefully designed mini books, games, and songs. Choose from a wide range of child-friendly topics that include the alphabet, colors, vehicles, and more. Kids can also discover new words from the built-in dictionary. Highly recommended.
The Reading Train is available for iPad
Get it on the App Store: iPad
App was provided for our honest review.