Supporting students to reinforce their literacy skills

Supported by research undertaken in the iRead project and previously funded FP7 Funded iLearnRW project and Innovate UK SafeReads, the Amigo Reader enables students to apply and enhance their reading skills with books and texts.

The Amigo Reader has been collaboratively designed through user centred design activities with teachers and students with the goal of supporting students to reinforce their literacy skills. For students with dyslexia and English as a foreign language, text-to-speech capabilities provide students with the much-needed exposure to age-appropriate vocabulary and pronunciation. Amigo Reader also offers on-demand access to word level strategies that support the process of decoding and comprehension, ensuring students are easily able to apply the skills they have practised in the Navigo Games (link) to books and texts.

Features and benefits

Child-friendly design

Amigo Reader has been collaboratively designed with teachers and students to ensure the app delivers a child-friendly and engaging reading experience. The app’s design utilises large text and colourful icons throughout, ensuring students find reading with Amigo both simple and engaging.

Assign any book from the iRead library to students

The iRead library contains hundreds of fiction and non-fiction books sourced from publishers in the UK, Spain, Germany and Greece, providing a wide selection of texts for students to choose from. These books have a flexible ePub format, making them easier to interact with and navigate.
Teachers are able to select any number of titles from the iRead library and assign them either to individual students or to their entire class. Once assigned, books appear in the student’s book list, ready for them to open and read the next time they sign into the reader.

Personalisation through pre-reading activities

After selecting a book to open, the Amigo Reader recommends a pre-reading activity for students to practice whilst reading through the text. These pre-reading activities focus on specific word-level strategies, such as vowels, double letters, prefixes, suffixes and much more.
Amigo Reader recommends tailored pre-reading activities to each individual student. These targeted language functions are based on the attributes that each student is yet to master based on their performance in playing the connected app, the Navigo game. However, teachers can also manually choose a specific pre-reading activity for students if they are focussing on a particular activity with the entire class.

Practicing pre-reading activities within the text

Once a book is open, Amigo Reader enables students to practice their assigned pre-reading activity by highlighting all instances of the specific attribute in the text. For example, if the pre-reading activity is set to “double letters; -ss”, then Amigo Reader will highlight all the instances where a “ss” appears in the text (such as “miss” or “bliss”).
By highlighting the specific word-level attributes, students are able to recognise and reinforce the skills they have acquired though playing the Navigo Games.

Read in comfort in an accessible Reader

Amigo Reader opens titles in an accessible Reader. The Reader incorporates a natural sounding text to speech voice, enabling students to tap a ‘play’ button to read along with the text highlighted at the same time.
Students are also able to easily customise the Reader so they can read in comfort.

This includes the ability to:

  • Change the reading speed of the text to speech voice
  • Increase or decrease the size of the text as well as the spacing between each letter, word and line
  • Choose from a range of different text fonts, with dyslexia friendly fonts available
  • Change the colours used for the text, background and highlight

Amigo Reader also makes it easy to navigate text, with options to skip to any heading in the book or search for any word or phrase in the text.

Master the specific words students find tricky

When a student identifies a word that they find difficult to decode, either the student or the teacher is able to add that word to the student’s tricky words list. Once added to their tricky words list, students practice decoding the word to help them master it. To do this, Amigo Reader provides the option for students to:

  • Have the word read back to them by the text-to-speech voice
  • Display the word as syllables, making it easier for students to break the word down and decode it
  • Record an audio note for the word using the microphone on the tablet. This will help students remember either the pronunciation or the meaning of the word
  • Assign an image to a word to aid with word recall

Listen to the word in context by having the text to speech voice read the sentence where the word was added to the tricky words list from.

Dictionary definitions

For student’s learning to read English or Spanish, Amigo Reader integrates with Oxford dictionary API providing clear and concise definitions of words.

Future work

Along with the Navigo Games, the Amigo Reader is currently being trialled in schools in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Spain, Romania and Greece. The trials will aim to identify how the Amigo app is used by teachers in whole classes and small groups. Feedback from these trials will be used to recommend further enhancements to the Reader. By understanding about everyday app use in schools, we hope to demonstrate the benefits that personalised strategies can have for students learning to read.