Saturday, October 25, 2014

FREE Literacy Apps for ALL Kinds of Struggling Readers

The month of October is always an "active" month for us, and this October 2014 definitely did not disappoint! It has been a very busy week here at Brennan Innovators with quite a number of parent phone consultations, the continuous packing and shipping of Reading Focus Card orders and the finalizing of preparations for a new product launch! Yes, a new product (unlike anything we've offered previously)! Next week in our blog article, we'll be telling you all about it, too. (Patience, patience, please!)

Traditionally at this part of October, parents and teachers are also meeting for the first conferences of the school year to discuss student progress. Also by this time in the semester, it can be fairly apparent to an educator if a student is experiencing issues with one or more reading skills. There might be a problem with focus and attention or fluency. Comprehension or retention of what is read could be issues. Parents may notice that it takes "forever" for their child to complete reading or written assignments at home. Other red flags might be raised, and solutions are urgently sought to help the challenged reader improve the deficient reading skills.

This week, we wanted to respond to a large number of email and phone requests as well as the many recent searches on our blog for "struggling reader apps." We thought we'd even take it a little further and offer a list of FREE apps in this often-requested category. In addition, we wanted to provide these apps for ALL kinds of challenged readers---for young, new readers, adolescents, middle-school readers, low-vision readers and even an application for teachers of struggling readers.

So, we hope that you will take a minute or two to survey the list of FREE iPad and Android apps we have created here for struggling readers in your life. We also hope you will discover at least one of them that will offer your child or students the help needed to read with much more success Oh, yes, and don't forget to check back here next week for that new product announcement! We think you'll be glad you did!

FREE Literacy Apps for Struggling Readers

8 Apps For Struggling Adolescent Readers (for Android & iPad)
by Hope Mulholland, Te@chThought
FREE apps that provide e-books, audiobooks and more for challenged teen readers can be found here.

Free App: One Minute Reader (Android & iPad)
If you have a child struggling with reading, download the free One Minute Reader app for iPad on iTunes. This app from the respected Minnesota-based company, Reading Naturally, contains a placement process to decide what reading level is right for your child and includes one FREE story from each level.
For Android:
For iPad:

Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read (Compatible with iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch-Optimized for iPhone 5)
by Hooked on Phonics
This FREE app is based on the award-winning Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read system. Millions of kids have learned to read using Hooked on Phonics. Now, we are proud to introduce our exciting new digital reading program!

Phonics Genius (Compatible with iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch)
by Innovative Mobile Apps
Over 6,000 words grouped by phonics sounds! This FREE app is an excellent resource for teaching phonemic awareness!

iCam Magnifier (Compatible with iPhone, iPad, & iPod touch-Optimized for iPhone 5)
FREE low vision app from Clarix (iCam is a low vision magnifier and reader for your iPhone or iPad. It features 5 high-contrast false color modes, as well as black and white, and color. If you struggle with reading, iCam can help magnify printed text. With an optional light, use it in dim lit rooms, restaurants, home, etc. It can be used to read menus, receipts, pill bottles & more.)

Fluency Tutor™ for Google (Android)
by TextHelp, Ltd.
Fluency Tutor™ for Google is a FREE, easy-to-use reading and assessment tool that helps busy teachers support struggling readers.
Great for time-stretched teachers, Fluency Tutor™ for Google lets students practice reading aloud at their own pace.
Make reading aloud more fun and satisfying for even your most reluctant students. It’s also great for early readers and individuals learning English as a second language. (Student app is used in conjunction with the Teacher app.)
Teacher App: (available from the Chrome Web Store)
Student App: (available from Google Play)

For more information on customizable reading tools for all kinds of challenged readers, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, October 18, 2014

BEST Literacy Apps for Kids

Last weekend, we had the great privilege of attending the “2014 Literacy for All Conference: The Community Reads” presented by the Harris-Stowe State University College of Education and the St. Louis Suburban Council of the International Reading Association. Brennan Innovators has participated and exhibited at this annual conference for the past five years, and each year, the speakers have been excellent.

We want to especially thank Dr. Betty Porter-Walls, faculty member at the university, for organizing and presenting this event all of those five years. Her enthusiasm has always been infectious, and as a result, attendees have always left the conferences re-inspired, re-energized and ready to promote literacy in their classrooms in new and exciting ways. With Dr. Betty's brand of organization, preparation and enthusiasm on tap once again, this year was no exception.

The session topics at the conference were timely yet practical. From “Tips to Make a Guided Reading Program More Effective” [K-6] by Dr. Sam Bommarito to "Using Favorite Read-Alouds to Develop Curriculum [PK-3] by Ms. Julia Auch, the conference offered much to the educators who attended last Saturday's event.

We spoke with many teachers that day who took time to visit us at our Reading Focus Cards' exhibit table. A number of them commented on the increasing number of challenged readers coming to their classrooms. A few educators mentioned that students are so easily distracted when attempting to read a selection. Others cited that their students need some type of sustained visual stimulation (i.e. pictures, color, graphics or technology) to stay on-task or to effectively learn concepts. These were only two of the reasons why conference attendees visited us at the event. We demonstrated and allowed the teachers to interact with the Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), our low-tech tools for challenged readers. We appreciated their high level of interest in wanting to help students who struggle to read.

More than a few times, the attendees requested apps and tech tools to assist with building reading skills such as phonemic awareness, phonics and fluency---in addition to help with focusing and tracking. We provided them with handouts that included strategies and website links to aid them.

Because of the teachers' requests and a similar demand experienced recently with our other clients and customers, we decided to provide our blog readers this week with a list of literacy apps for educators and parents to help children build some of those all-important reading skills. We included both iPad and Android apps in the list and grouped them into different reading skill categories. We have found these to be some of the most frequently recommended reading skills apps currently available. We believe the apps in this list will definitely do much to entice reluctant readers to begin reading, keep unfocused readers engaged, and provide the colorful visuals to get students excited about reading everyday---all while improving reading skill levels. We hope you and a struggling reader you know will benefit from the use of at least one of them!

FREE Literacy Apps for Kids

Apps for Phonemic Awareness

ABC Magic Reading 1 - Short Vowel Words (FREE)
by Preschool University
This sampler app can help your child’s future reading success by giving your child key reading skills practice.

100+ Top Apps for Phonemic Awareness (for iPhone/iPad---FREE & various prices)
A long list of iPhone and iPad apps to help increase phonemic awareness for various grade levels.

50+ Top Apps for Phonemic Awareness (for Android---FREE & various prices)
A collection of Android apps to help increase phonemic awareness for various grade levels.

Other Literacy Apps
(FREE & at Various Prices)

Apps for Phonics

ABC Magic Phonics (FREE)
by Preschool University
This app will help your child learn the sounds of the letters of the alphabet, which are necessary for reading. Learning the sounds of the letters gives your child the tools for reading and helps them become better readers. A matching phonetic photo image is matched with each letter to help your child learn the sound of each letter.

ABC Pocket Phonics: Letter Sounds & Writing + First Words (Price: FREE & $6.99)
by Apps in My Pocket Ltd.(For iPhone and iPad)
This "universal" app teaches the basics of reading and writing to young children.
Lite version (FREE):
Full version ($6.99):

Sight Word Flip It (Price: $3.99)
Sight Word Flip It was carefully designed by two reading specialists who have taught 100s of children to read. Not many literacy apps can make this claim! Sight Word Flip It offers an effective and engaging way for kids to learn high frequency sight words.

Starfall ABCs (Price: $2.99)
by Starfall Education
The "ABCs" section of's well-loved website is now available as a universal application for your iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. Our activities motivate through positive reinforcement and play. (Note: App contains the ABC letter section only, NOT the whole website)

Apps for Fluency

Read With Me Fluency (Price: $4.99)
by sleek-geek inc.
Many educators have been looking for a system that would actually decrease the workload required for student reading assessment. This app appears to meet this need.

Fluency (Price: $2.99)
by Michael Tillyer
Teachers can help students become better and more confident readers with this app. Children use the power of self correction to improve their own reading skills.

K-12 Timed Reading Practice Lite (FREE)
by k-12 Inc.
This app allows readers in grades K-4 to practice fluency, the ability to read smoothly and quickly (timed).

Reading Focus Cards Desktop App (Patent 8,360,779)
(for Macs & Windows PCs---Price: $5.99)
from Brennan Innovators, LLC
This DESKTOP app is the digital version of the physical Reading Focus Cards (Patent 7,565,759), solutions for struggling readers. This app for Windows PCs and Macs provides practical READING SUPPORT for children and adults with ADHD, dyslexia, autism and other conditions that can affect reading success. It promotes more FOCUS, FLUENCY and VISUAL COMFORT for online reading of almost ALL digital media (webpages, PDF files, Word docs, Excel spreadsheets & more.) In addition, the Reading Focus Card app is compatible with and supports touch-screen technology. The application can be moved on the screen over text by the fingers, mouse or arrow keys as needed. The following are direct links to purchase and download your version of this app:
a. For Macs (desktops & notebooks):
Visit the Mac App Store and search for Reading Focus Cards or go directly to
b. For Windows PCs (desktops & laptops):
Visit Gumroad at OR visit the Microsoft Windows Store and search for the app called Reading Focus Cards. (No URLs are ever provided for apps in the Windows Store.)

For more information on customizable reading tools to improve focus and attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Clip Art Lord at
Brennan Innovators, LLC at

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Test-Taking Tips for Students with Dyslexia & Other Reading Challenges

We've turned a new calendar page and are suddenly finding ourselves already in the chilly month of October here in the Midwest! Where does the time go? Leaves have turned russet and crimson as the fall season surrounds us, and for many students, the mid-term exam season is also quickly approaching.

On or about mid-October, many high school and college students will be taking their mid-term tests. Now is the time to prepare WELL for them. We have a few tips to share with you this week that could make the mid-term season much more successful (AND even less stressful!), especially if you are a student with dyslexia or other reading challenge. We hope you will read and review these tips, making plans to follow through on their use. If so, you will be well-prepared for the mid-term season, even if essay questions are included in the exams.

How to Do Your Very BEST When Taking Tests or Exams

1. Ensure that you are provided the appropriate accommodations you are entitled to receive. These accommodations might include extra time given for taking the test. You might also be permitted the use of a low or high-tech device, a scribe, a larger font format or colored paper for reading. Perhaps there is a provision that no points can be deducted a test or exam for poor spelling. However, be aware that there may be a time requirement or deadline in your state or country by which such exam accommodations must be in place, Get everything organized well ahead of such a deadline.

2. Be clear about you what you will be trying to achieve before entering the exam room. Motivation, defined goals, review of practice exams and asking many questions prior to the test session will help you know exactly what the instructor's expectations will be.

3. Just prior to the exam, listen to audios of the text you are studying. You can do this on an e-reader or any computing device with text-to-speech capability. Go for a long walk or exercise while you are listening to make the learning multi-sensory. The extra oxygen provided to the brain and body as a result of this activity will be a positive, too.

4. Practice developing your expressive writing skills to prepare for the test. Review and re-read past essay questions, discussion papers and study notes. Use speech-to-text software and begin speaking with your computing device the way you would do so to answer a question about this topic on your exam. Flesh out your ideas, find quotes to support your arguments and use examples from the text or story to further enhance your writing. Consider saving and emailing these docs. or notes to your teacher to confirm if you are on the right track. If possible, obtain the teacher's feedback and then re-write accordingly. You will improve as you progress. All this practice and preparation will most definitely help on the day you actually begin taking your exam and reading the essay question for the first time.

5. If you are a literal person or a student whose strength is not in creative writing, devise a plan as to how you might answer an essay question. First, prepare and memorize a set of 5-10 useful quotes you could use to make your point in this essay question. This approach will help to demonstrate that you have read the text and can relate to what the author or character meant by what was said or written in the book.

When beginning to write an introductory paragraph to an essay, you might want to have an opening sentence followed by three general comments that relate to the exam topic or question. In the second paragraph, a plan to expand on one of the general comments with an example of how this is demonstrated in the text might be a good plan. Then consider using a quote to emphasize your point. A concluding paragraph should reiterate the main points you wish to convey to the reader.

6. If you are really creative and a divergent thinker, you will also need a plan to ensure you get your message across in a succinct and effective manner. During the testing session, consider drawing a quick mind map on a piece of note paper just before you begin writing. This will help keep you on track and increase the possibility of writing an essay of much better quality.

7. If time permits, carefully re-read your essay, checking for appropriate punctuation, grammar and spelling to the best of your ability.

8. For last-minute crammers, consider using Wikipedia (make sure content is accurate, however) and Sparknotes. There are other helpful resources such as these, too.

9. Remain calm and practice some good breathing exercises to help with relaxation prior to and during a test or exam. However, remember that an exam is just an exam. Pass or fail, it is not the end of the world. Life is a journey. There may be some speed bumps in life that slow us down no matter who we are or what our strengths or weaknesses are. Just prepare WELL and DO your best. That is all anyone could ask.

We wish you ALL much test-taking SUCCESS this mid-term season!

Sources and Resources for Test-Taking Tips

The Ten Minute Tutor
Liz and Andrew Dunoon are the husband and wife team who have designed and created The Ten Minute Tutor. Together they have set forth to make learning to read and spell, faster, easier and more enjoyable for everybody. They claim that The Ten Minute Tutor program turns sad and frustrated children into happy, enthusiastic children… and takes the worry and stress away from you, the parent.
by Liz Dunoon

When your books and teachers don't make sense, we do. Study guides and discussion forums offered on various academic subjects. Literature section includes brief analyses of characters, themes and plots.

For more information on customizable reading tools to improve focus and attention, please visit: Tools for struggling readers of all ages! Info & support for struggling readers

Image courtesy of:
Brennan Innovators, LLC at