Stephanie Dua spent the last ten years pushing for educational reform, first as the CEO of the Fund for Public Schools under former Chancellor of New York’s Department of Education, Joel Klein, and Caroline Kennedy, before becoming senior advisor to David Coleman at Student Achievement Partners (SAP). But as much time as she spent as a reformer on “the inside,” when it came time for Dua’s daughter to learn how to read, she struggled to find any quality materials for parents that could help get their kids started on the right path.
With the help of former Google engineer Iris Tang, Dua created Learn With Homer, a business and reading app for the iPad of the same name, which launched on the App Store this week. The idea was to transform how kids age 3 to 6 learn how to read, but not just by creating another eBook or cute little game-ified learning app for the iPad.
Instead, Dua and Tang wanted to bring together the latest educational research, learning techniques and teaching practices to create a better learning experience for both kids and parents. And one, importantly, that is aligned with the new standards of the Common Core, so that parents have assurance that their kids will start school (or kindergarten) ahead of the curve. To do so, the app blends a whole mess of custom learning content and stories taken from fairy tales, fables, and various mythologies with some killer, custom illustrations and art to make the content more engaging for young eyeballs.
Alongside these stories, Learn with Homer includes a phonics program that aims to teach kids how words not only look, but how they sound and how they’re strung together. The motivation, Dua tells us, is to create a “comprehensive literacy program” for the iPad, where kids are not just memorizing words by sight as their parents read to them at bedtime, for example, but actually learning the sounds of the words as they go.
The iPad then offers “field trips” that aim to bring the platform’s lessons into the real world by showing pictures of a fun range of animal characters and allowing kids to hear their own voices and words imitate those characters. Parents can also make recordings of their kids during the process, measuring their progress as they move through Learn With Homer’s 30 (free to download) lessons.
Parental units can also add up to three kids per account or access free storage for up to 500 of these recordings — as well as drawings. To that end, Learn With Homer offers printable mazes and other engaging puzzles, artwork and lists of books that you can buy online to supplement your wee ones’ learning activities.
“The single biggest predictor of children’s academic success is their reading level at third grade,”
Dua tells us. “Through Learn With Homer, we want to help kids and parents in the early years, when it matters most. So every element of the experience serves a learning purpose, but also allows kids to have fun. Our parent testers were blown away by how much their children enjoyed using Learn with Homer — and even more by how much their children learned.”
It’s tough to create an engaging, gamified product experience, while prioritizing the learning experience in a way that doesn’t cheapen either side and maintains the balance. Learn With Homer does both, and the design is actually stunning. You don’t have to play with this for long before realizing how much parents are going to love this.
Learn With Homer is backed by $2.2 million in seed financing raised from a flock of venture and angel investors, including: Great Oaks Venture Capital; Paul Francis, Entrepreneur and early CFO of Priceline; Tom Glocer, former CEO of Thomson Reuters, Founding Partner of Angelic Ventures; Rob Soni, Entrepreneur, Investor, former Managing Partner at Bessemer Venture Partners and General Partner at Matrix Ventures; and Matt Turck, Managing Director, FirstMark Capital (who invested personally).
For more, find Learn With Homer at home here.