2020 was a difficult year for teachers for many reasons, including the sudden requirement to use screens for teaching literacy. For our teachers-judges, the task of selecting the best digital book was met with the logistical challenge of not having access to the classroom and not being able to test the apps in a classroom full of children. However, our teachers-judges took on the challenge with enthusiasm and willingness to be involved in the evaluation process. One teacher used the shortlisted e-books with a group of key workers’ children in the school and another teacher with her own children at home. As in previous years, teachers were asked to judge digital books based on the reading for pleasure criteria and add their own comments as appropriate.
Based on the teachers’ scores and comments, two apps – The Reading Journey by Just Imagine and the Reading Realm by The Reading Realm Ltd – made it to the top. Both apps offer a range of texts and act as small interactive libraries with embedded activities and guidance. Teachers appreciated this accumulation of resources and possibility for their own choice of texts and activities.
Richard Charlesworth, teacher-judge from Springwell School, said about the Reading Journey:
With tailoring factored into the Teacher/administrator’s running of the app, there is potential for children to be set challenges, achieve rewards (crucially based on Reading for Pleasure as opposed to more objective-based outcomes) and be exposed to a wide range of texts and author interviews (through the floating balloon which changes monthly).
Reading Realm, on the other hand, offers regularly updated texts, which are accompanied by an extract and a range of ‘activities’ that link to comprehension, spelling and grammar. There are two ‘creative’ areas which essentially function as a painting tool and word processor.
The teachers commented that both apps could be used to widen the literacy provision in classrooms and extend children’s opportunities for reading for pleasure. Given the proximity in final scores and the teachers’ positive comments about both apps, the Award Panel decided to name a joint winner both The Reading Realm and Reading Journey.
The Reading Realm’s Director, Ian Eagleton, said:
We are thrilled to have been recognised for this award alongside The Reading Journey app. The Reading Realm app has always been about encouraging a lifelong love of reading and giving children a chance to escape into a world where stories come to life. With discussion guides, quizzes, creative writing prompts, cross-curricular links and library challenges, we hope the app will continue to support teachers in class and parents at home. With the release of The Poetry Realm app, we continue our mission to give children access to high quality texts and develop their desire and agency to shape their reading choices.
The Reading Journey Creative Director, Caroline Bradley, said:
Developing positive reading cultures in education settings has never been more vital. We take enormous pleasure from offering schools a reading resource that facilitates meaningful interaction between children and their teachers as they navigate their reading journeys and build communities of readers together.
We hope that in 2021, more teachers can join the judging-teachers group and use it as an opportunity to get to know, and try out, new digital reading resources. Paula Fernandez, from Heaton St. Barnabas’ CE Primary. shared with us her experience:
I’d like to thank you for the opportunity to take part in this process. I’ve enjoyed trying the apps out and seeing what they can do. I hadn’t previously used reading/literacy apps for teaching or home learning nor would I have even thought to do so, so this has been a useful experience for me as a teacher and as an English lead.
We would like to thank our teachers-judges and the designers and developers of all submitted apps and e-books.
Natalia Kucirkova, Award Chair; Lucy Rodriguez-Leon, Award Panel member