If you have an elementary-school-aged child at home, you’re probably already familiar with apps which are designed to help students learn how to read. However, when investigating apps designed for high school students, a question I typically hear is “where can I go to find something they’re interested in?”. Even after elementary school, it’s important to foster a rich reading life, but often students and parents don’t know where to turn. With social media integrating itself into every aspect of student life, it’s difficult to know where your student ends and the phone begins. Luckily, I’ve waded through the highest-rated apps the Apple store has to offer, and found a few other sources of reading practice you may not have thought of.
1. Online retail apps - Many parents already know of apps linked to the big book retailers: apps like Nook, Kindle, Scribd, Goodreads, and Apple’s own iBooks, but often students don’t use these apps to the fullest potential. While these apps are great to find books, few people take the time to review books once they are finished. The act of reviewing is a great chance for your student to practice critical thinking skills by making a claim about a book and defending that claim. It’s also a wonderful chance for parents to speak with their students about what they enjoy reading, and what they want to know more about in the future. (free, with in-app purchases)
2. Graphic Novel/Comics apps - Many of my students enjoy reading graphic novels for pleasure, and with the recent Marvel and DC universes playing out in movie theaters across the country, it’s a great time to tap into your student’s interest in where these heroes and villains come from. comiXology, DC Entertainment, and Marvel all provide access to comics at reasonable prices, along with Dark Horse and iMAGE (independent comic publishing houses) boasting their own titles as well. Comics and graphic novels are wonderful to help students who are still learning english, or who struggle with reading comprehension or motivation. (free, with in-app purchases. Comic story lines range from suitable for everyone to very mature, so please use your best judgement when helping your student decide what’s right for them.)
3. Video Games - This last entry on my list is a place few parents would think to look for reading practice. Video games. Yes, you read that correctly. Now, I’m not speaking of shooters like Call of Duty, or sports games like Fifa. I’m speaking specifically about visual novels.
Visual novels are just that. Novels given voice-acting, sound effects, and animated backgrounds to enhance interest. They are not a movie, and the voice-actors only read limited portions of the text. The rest of the story is up to the student to read. Visual novels come in every genre, like romance (If My Heart Had Wings, rated 12+), fantasy (Juniper’s Knot, rated 12+, Choice of the Deathless, rated 12+, Amnesia: Memories, rated 12+), and mystery (Kelly Armstrong’s Cainsville Files, rated 12+).
As always, parents and guardians are encouraged to read through each app’s description before giving the green light to purchase, and this also makes for a great bonding activity to read with your student and talk about the stories.