Education

iLiteracy: New iPad app teaches little ones how to read

Learn with Homer's team: Stephanie Dua, Chrysta Naron, Bee Johnson, Peggy Kaye, Kenneth Roraback

Above: Learn with Homer's team: Stephanie Dua, Chrysta Naron, Bee Johnson, Peggy Kaye, Kenneth Roraback

Stephanie Dua spent most of her career working in education reform. She’s also a mother of three; a few years ago, one of her daughters needed help learning to read.

Dua sought guidance from colleagues and close friends, who happened to be some of the foremost literacy experts in the country.

This inspired Dua to take all this knowledge and funnel it into a new reading app for children. She was also inspired to start this as a new business, given the lack of alternatives on the market. “The more I dug into what was available, the more disillusioned I became,” Dua said.

Dua’s iPad app, dubbed “Learn with Homer,” is now available to download on the App Store. It is intended for kids ages 3 to 6.

Dua’s focus is on literacy, as she believes the greatest predictor of future academic success is children’s reading level in the third grade.

I asked Dua about the distinction between her app and the scores of other learning tools on the App Store and Google Play, which have also popped up in the past year. Unlike most apps, Learn with Homer doesn’t assume that children can read, she explained. The app can teach kids to read, and it offers plenty of practice techniques to supplement classroom learning.

It is also designed to meet the new standards of the Common Core, a U.S. education initiative to bring diverse state curricula into a more nationwide alignment.

“I believe Homer is incredibly well positioned to be the leader in this category, as it’s simply a world apart from any other ‘learn to read’ app or website that’s currently on the market,” Matt Turck, an investor in the company, told me.

The app covers phonemes, sight words, and other “building blocks of literacy,” according to Dua. It also exposes children to an array of subjects, including science and history. Up to three players can use the app at any give time, and they may draw, record, and share content.

Parents can track their kids’ progress and share drawings on Facebook or from the Parent Site.

The first 30 lessons are available for free. However, the company intends to make its money by charging parents for access to additional content, including lessons. This premium content is discreetly presented in a separate screen — click the shopping cart to view the full list and pay via credit card. This prevent kids from making in-app purchases without parental consent.

The Brooklyn-based Learn With Homer team today raised $2.2 million from angel investors: among them, Great Oaks Venture Capital; Paul Francis, the former CFO of Priceline; Tom Glocer, the former CEO of Thomson Reuters; Rob Soni, the former managing partner at Bessemer Venture Partners; and Turck, who is now a managing director at FirstMark Capital.

Check out the video below to learn more about the Learn with Homer app.