There is a great new tool to teach kids how to read. It’s called Reading Bear. It is a project of WatchKnowLearn.org. The project seeks to teach “beginning readers vocabulary and concepts while systematically introducing all the main phonetic patterns of written English, all using innovative rich media”. The project has some strong backing, including its Editor-in-Chief, Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia.
The website has a beautifully illustrated and child-friendly design. In the image below, you can see a sampling of the layout. It is worth noting that most of the images and video were donated by Shuttershock.com.
The website uses a series of video presentations to introduce phonetic concepts. Each presentation can be viewed as an interactive slide show or in video format. At this time, there are 14 presentations and they hope to add 50 soon. Pictured below, you will notice that each concept has seven different ways that it is presented to the child. This helps to reinforce concepts by using different learning styles.
They have a really nice introductory video that describes how this process works. You can view it below.
Reading Bear’s parent site, Watch Know Learn, is a program of the non-profit Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi. The intent of Watch Know Learn is very simple: “Free educational videos delivered over the Internet. Viewed any time, from anywhere.” Watch Know Learn was initially funded by an anonymous Memphis-area philanthropist. Dr. Larry Sanger, Ph.D. was tapped to be the leader of this endeavor because of his success in building knowledge-based websites like Wikipedia. Sanger is also the father of two young children and shares a passion for reading. The Reading Bear website is a work in progress and they are actively seeking volunteers to help with their endeavor. If you are interested, you can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can contribute to the project.
I believe endeavors like this are worthy of community support. They believe in equal access to education and that everyone should have the opportunity to learn. Hopefully, they will gain support and, more importantly, many children will learn to read from this project.