Back to school: A reading routine you can rely on

Back to school: A reading routine you can rely on

Back to school: A reading routine you can rely on

To truly understand someone’s job you have to stand in their shoes before you can empathise fully.

If you’re a teacher – the nation has more empathy for you in these challenging times than ever before. As parents across the country struggle to keep their children motivated and fulfil a role they’re not trained to do – yours. Teaching through lockdown.

But at Fonetti, you’ve been in our thoughts personally as well as professionally.

We know that many of you are parents too. And just like others juggling full-time work with childcare and home-schooling, you’ve got more than your fair share of the workload.

So how are you coping?

Be honest, we’re all friends here and it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. It’s ok to feel anxious about not recognising the workplace that you love when you can welcome your pupils back into class again, whenever that may be.

You face what feels like an impossible task of creating a ‘new normal’. Rules and social distancing strategies that you’re under pressure to implement first so that other sectors can follow.

Right now, you’re probably doing more than you ever signed-up to do. But you’re doing it because teaching is more than a job to you, it’s a vocation. You care about the children in your care and are committed to supporting your school family.

We appreciate the juggle you face daily – planning lessons and distance-learning, calling parents to offer support and being strong for your colleagues. While all the time feeling guilty that you can’t fully commit your time to the classroom in your own living room, for your own children.

Time is a luxury

You have the skillset to your advantage – home-schooling is your forte.  But time is against you. You’d love to have the time to sit and listen to your children read. To check their pronunciation, know which words they’re finding tricky and hear their progress first-hand. 

So, what if we told you, you can – without needing to clone yourself in the process? It’s all thanks to one little word: Fonetti.

The reading assistant at home

Fonetti listens when you can’t. When you’re working from home, running a house and supporting a classroom of 30+, Fonetti gives your children the freedom to read without you.

Aloud and independently.

Approved by the Department for Education’s Hungry Little Minds campaign, as a platform for children to practise their reading, Fonetti is the world’s first listening bookshop. It’s a world of stories, fun and fiction that helps build confidence through encouragement and rewards.

It’s a reading revolution.

And right now, it’s the reading assistant available to every home and is the technology behind interactive reading.

How does it work?

Imagine reverse Karaoke, for speech rather than song. Children choose a story and start reading aloud. When they get the words right, they turn green. If they get stuck, they double tap for help. When they finish a book, they win rewards, instant praise and improve their literacy in the process.

Fonetti also keeps parents, like you, up to date with what your children are reading. You’ll receive regular weekly updates that tell you:

  • how long your child has read for
  • which stories they’ve read
  • the number of times a book has been chosen
  • and what words they’ve struggled with.

It also tells you when they’ve reached a new reading level.

Teacher wearing protective mask to Protect Against Covid-19,Grou

Establish an easy reading routine

Routine during lockdown has had its challenges – many caused by the calendar. Easter holidays, May bank holidays and the recent half term break have been difficult for children to accept. Their location hasn’t changed and, for many, going ‘back to school’ simply means swapping their PlayStation for their pencil case without even leaving their sofa.

Although the holidays may signal a well-deserved break to your working week, they attract all the risks of routine-rebellion as your children may find it hard to focus after a break. Fonetti provides a fun, independent and disciplined reading routine, regardless of term-time.

Socially-distant stories

Reading isn’t necessarily a social activity. It can be enjoyed as much as a solitary pastime as it can in a group so you could say it’s the ideal activity for a socially-distant classroom. With the potential changes to the academic landscape, 1-2-1 reading assistants may be postponed for some time.

And teaching resources, particularly classroom assistants, will be inevitably stretched. Fonetti offers a lifeline to literacy, a world of escapism and structured support to every school.

Developed with linguistic professors at the University of Edinburgh, Fonetti can recognise readers speaking English as a second language, those with dyslexia and SEN. It also offers teachers insightful analytics that reduce the average workload.

With Fonetti you can say goodbye to traditional book logs. Instead you can keep up to date with the progress of every child in your class with one simple click. 

We don’t just want to stand in your shoes. We want to take the weight off your feet. To give you some valuable time back, to make managing your classroom – wherever it may be – that little bit easier. And most importantly, so that reading aloud isn’t relegated because of restrictions.

We can’t control all the things our younger generation are missing out on at the moment. But we can ensure that reading isn’t one of them. Drop us a line  to start using Fonetti with your class.

Reading Aloud: A fear of fiction or failure

Reading Aloud: A fear of fiction or failure

Reading Aloud: A fear of fiction or failure

Throughout fiction it’s often the introverts that become the quiet heroes. The ones that turn their shyness into a superpower. Think Matilda, Boo Radley and Bilbo Baggins – they all find their inner strength from their introverted nature. And their characters reassure young readers in their company, that they too can overcome the anxieties caused by their shyness.

Reading about the adventures of these protagonists to themselves can be a comfort to a shy child. But reading a few pages aloud to their class can be a game-changer, not only to their confidence but to their enjoyment and perceptions of reading on the whole.

To a shy child, being asked to read even a sentence aloud can be the greatest challenge to overcome.

Maybe they’re embarrassed.

Maybe they’re scared of saying the wrong thing, worried they’ll look silly or be judged by their classmates.

Maybe it’s the attention they don’t like – the spotlight suddenly shining on them, sentence by sentence. Whatever the reason, the fear is the same.

As is the sensation of butterflies in their tummy, flushed cheeks, sweaty palms and quivering voice – all unwelcome symptoms that tar a love of stories by association. And all avoidable.

Reading aloud should be fun – not feared

As a parent you can remember your own experience of assemblies, school plays and classroom reading. How did those experiences shape your adult life?

Reading aloud is a life-skill. Presenting to an audience and being able to communicate confidently is not only valuable academically but personally too. It helps us with exams, job interviews and gives us reassurance just re-reading documents for clarity on a daily basis.

Anxiety builds quickly and a bad experience at school, for a shy child, can have a huge impact on their adult life. But there’s one word that can stop fear in its tracks: Fonetti.

Ultimate app for reading aloud

Fonetti offers a private platform for children to practice reading aloud. It’s a world of stories, fun and fiction that helps build confidence through praise and rewards, far from the ears of judging peers or a classroom environment. It’s a reading revolution that’s taking the world by storm and building confidence by the minute.

Approved by the Department for Education’s Hungry Little Minds campaign. Fonetti is the world’s first listening bookshop. And right now, it’s the reading assistant available to every home and is the technology behind interactive reading.

Think of it as karaoke, but for speech rather than song. Children choose a story and start reading aloud. When they get the words right, they turn green. If they get stuck, they double tap for help. So, they can practice again and again, with confidence – as there’s no one else listening to them but themselves. When they finish a book, they win rewards, stars and fanfares…and soon start to love reading.

Mum of three, Kelly Williams explains:

“Freddie’s always been a shy little boy – he loves school, don’t get me wrong, but he’s quite happy to let others put their hand up and take the lead. Having an older brother and sister, he’s used to others speaking for him in one way.

My husband and I thought school would help him come out of his shell a little and weren’t worried about his school work until he had to learn lines for his school assembly. I’ll never forget how he came home in bits. He knew the words and could read them to himself but just struggled to say them aloud – even to his big brother. So, we tried to find him some help and thankfully found Fonetti.

After just two days of using the app, something changed. It was as if he’d found his voice for the first time and would take himself off to the sofa to read but aloud. I remember us both putting shopping away in the kitchen and hearing Freddie’s voice in the living room as he read. 

I’ll be honest, it made me a bit emotional…but watching him in his school play a week later made me even more. I couldn’t have been prouder. His voice didn’t boom like the other kids but he said his lines out loud without a wobble and with a smile. We’ve not doubt that was helped by Fonetti.”

Independent but informed

Fonetti gives children the freedom to read without needing support from an adult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t keep track of their progress. Fonetti keeps parents, like you, up to date with what your children are reading. You’ll receive regular weekly updates that tell you:

  • how long your child has read for
  • which stories they’ve read
  • the number of times a book has been chosen
  • and what words they’ve struggled with.

It also tells you when they’ve reached a new reading level. Designed by speech recognition experts at the University of Edinburgh, Fonetti can recognise readers speaking English as a second language, those with dyslexia and SEN.

It also senses when a child is shy by how many pauses they take and how softly they speak. It’s that intuitive. So, it can support every reader individually and allow them to read at their own pace.

Together we can turn timid readers into confident speakers of the future. Ones that love to talk to an audience and love to share a story.

Let Fonetti be the start of theirs.

Screentime Shift in Perception

Screentime Shift in Perception

Screentime Shift in Perception

Screen time – a sudden shift in perceptions

The recommended daily screen time allowance for children is an hour per day (based on the World Health Organisation guidelines issued in 2019).

Easily manageable when you take nursery/school hours and outdoor activities into the equation. That is until one little word introduces itself:

Lockdown

If there was ever a metaphorical rule breaker, tempting us all – lockdown is it.

As adults, let’s consider our own screen time use. Pre-lockdown it would probably have been high but during lockdown it’s potentially doubled.

Zoom is no longer a word we see in the pages of a picture book at bedtime, it’s a verb we use daily and a virtual ticket that connects us to colleagues, friends and family via a screen.

Smartphones, tablets, laptops and TVs become our focus out of necessity and our children are no exception.

Screen time used to be viewed as ‘lazy-parenting’ and was seen as an ‘easy option’ to entertain, frowned upon by many.

But in a world where technology offers our safest way of communicating, keeping in touch and educating ourselves, perceptions are changing daily. Screen time is being embraced and the positives are being explored, for some for the first time.

Educators are way ahead of us. They know the positive powers of screen time and are already taking advantage of technology as a teaching resource.

With four in 10 British children predicted to own a tablet before their 6th birthday it’s clear that screen time is becoming habitual in a large percentage of homes.

Our children are a generation of ‘digital-natives’ who adapt to technology instinctively. All sounding positive so far isn’t it? But what about the guilt?

“As a busy mum of 3, I am guilty, as I’m sure many others are, of using screen time as a babysitter in order to get jobs done. However, it’s not all bad, I have noticed a marked improvement in my two-year-old’s vocabulary from the educational games that he has been playing.”,

Chloe Smith (Mother and Primary School Teacher)

Many parents feel guilty for using screen-time. They believe it will make their children anti-social, damage their eyesight and lure them away from traditional methods of learning.

But feelings of guilt should actually be replaced by gratitude. Screen time can enhance learning rather than hinder it.

Just as the world is changing rapidly, so are the perceptions of screen time.

In fact in their The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health 2019 screen time study shows that social media has more of a negative impact on an individual rather than the use of the device itself.

They recommend that screen time use with digital devices should be made on a case-by-case basis within families rather than a general limit based on age.

It’s time to turn the spotlight on the advantages of screen-based technology

When used effectively, screen time can be hugely beneficial to a child’s development.

Fonetti:

  • Encourages independent learning
  • Connects students directly to schools and syllabus
  • Improves cognitive skills
  • Develops motor skills and co-ordination
  • Nurtures life-skills such as email comms, coding and video conferencing
  • Provides access to educational tools and resources

So where does Fonetti fit-in?

Quite simply, Fonetti injects fun into screen time. Accredited by The Department for Education’s Hungry Little Minds Campaign, Fonetti is an approved platform, and a safe place, for children to practise their reading.

With Fonetti screen time and story time merge into one with a little bit of magic and many benefits including:

Building confidence:

  • There’s no fear of reading aloud or peer pressure. With Fonetti children can read independently without the need of a grown-up (great news for parents working from home). If children stumble on certain words, they just double tap for hints and help – it couldn’t be simpler.

Entertaining all abilities:

  • We have a range of reading levels to suit every reader and that works alongside the National Curriculum. Our library is constantly evolving with new titles added daily ready for eager readers to jump in and enjoy a new adventure.

Supports children learning English as a second language:

  • Fonetti recognises a child’s speech patterns regardless of dialect, accent or native tongue, making it the ideal learning platform for those learning English as a second language.

Provides encouragement:

  • Think of Fonetti as a virtual high-five, as the pages turn, the fanfares, prizes and encouragement begin

Keeps parents in the loop:

  • If children use the app at home, you’ll be notified weekly of their child’s progress – we’ll email you to tell you how much time your child has spent reading, which books they’ve finished, which words they’ve struggled with and if they’ve progressed from one reading level to another.

We’re the world’s first listening bookshop.

And we’re the only platform that listens to children while they read, that recognises their speech regardless of dialect, accent or native tongue.

You could say, at the moment, we’re the teaching assistant available to every home and the technology behind interactive reading.

And we’re building confidence on an hourly basis…or however long your children choose to interact with us.

Screen time is a personal choice.

The results of screen time resources are fact. Using some of your child’s screen time allowance on Fonetti will benefit them more than playing on their games console.

It still entertains, feeds their imagination and gives them valuable life-skills as well as nurturing a love of reading.

We’re sharing this experience together.

The fears, the frustrations, the pain. The pride, the gratitude and the love. We’re sharing our space, our time and our skills. We’re sharing our screens. We’re sharing our stories.

And there has never been a better time: #Fonetti

Our World Needs a Clean

Our World Needs a Clean

Our World Needs a Clean

The timeless magic of storytelling

We’re living in surreal times. Like you, we know it’s incredibly hard to explain to children just why their world has changed so dramatically. As a parent you naturally want to shield them from anything that will scare them, yet at the same time you want to be able to answer their questions as honestly as possible. Every generation has faced challenges and we’ve learnt to adapt out of necessity rather than choice. But as a species we have stories to thank for our evolution. Stories are the one thing we can guarantee will survive. Stories have an incredible power to teach. From the days when words uttered around campfires became lessons to live by, stories today still hold the key to communication.

Tablet screens are today what cave paintings were to the past and, here at Fonetti, we value every word that teaches, entertains and reassures our young readers and the writers of tomorrow. So when we first read the wonderful ‘Our World Needs A Clean’ by Nicky Nash we knew it had to be added to our library. To help you as parents but more importantly to be honest with our readers and tell the truth but sprinkled with a little bit of story magic from our world of words.

 

Nicky explains her reasons for sharing her story:

For me, it took a while for the reality of this pandemic to really sink in. Wuhan seemed so very far away, and although the growing cases of the Coronavirus were being reported daily, I felt so far removed from it all. I’m not sure whether it was denial or naivety.

Then, so suddenly, it was all happening right here in our country, in our county, in our town. The talk of a ‘lockdown’ here in the UK had seemed so impossible, so unlikely, so hard to believe. But so suddenly, it was happening. The thought of not seeing family and friends for weeks, or months, was too heart-breaking to process at first. But it wasn’t about me. It was my children my heart was breaking for. My son, Charlie, is just seven months old. Of course, I worry about how this will affect him but I’m so grateful that he is blissfully unaware of the changes to his world. My daughter, Anna, is nearly three, and for her the changes have been much more significant. No nursery, no friends round to play, no swimming, no park visits, no weekly trips to the library or to soft play. No visits from her beloved Grandparents, Aunties and Uncles, or cousins. I felt an overwhelming sense of sadness for them both. With this sadness came an uncertainty about how I could explain to Anna the reasons we could no longer do so many of the things that she loved to do. For the first few days of lockdown, I tried to distract her with other things, and offered rather poor excuses for why we couldn’t go to her favourite places. But it quickly became obvious that this wasn’t sustainable. She needed an explanation, and despite her being young, I wanted to be as honest with her as possible, without frightening her or causing her to worry.

 

As a Primary School Teacher, I am a great believer of using stories to help children understand events and process emotions, so when my friend sent me a poem that had recently been shared online, I was immediately inspired to adapt it to create a book for my daughter. This fantastic poem told a story of a world that needed cleaning, to rid it of some germs that were spreading everywhere. In the poem, the Kings and Queens decided that they needed to close all the fun places, in order to clean the world up. It was such a clever way to explain the current situation to young children and I knew that my daughter would connect with it positively. I spent a few evenings adapting the words to make it relevant to my daughter’s life, and drew some pictures to aid her understanding. We had never explicitly spoken about germs before, so it was crucial that the pictures were gentle, so she wouldn’t be worried or frightened by this new concept. There were some things that I deliberately didn’t include in the book. For example, the fact that we couldn’t see our wider family. This, I knew, had to be handled separately. Once she had a basic understanding of why her world had changed, I felt it would be easier to give these more difficult messages through gentle conversations later on.

Once I had finished the book, I felt a sense of relief, but also trepidation. I wasn’t 100% sure that I was making the right decision by sharing it with her, and I secretly hoped it may not be necessary, But the next morning, Anna asked if we could go swimming, and I knew it was the right time to read the story to her. As she listened intently, unwelcome tears threatened to appear in my eyes. I felt an overwhelming sense of emotion; concern about how she would react, and relief that I was giving her some much needed answers. By reading it aloud, I also felt that I was finally accepting our new reality, and I think that this was something I needed to do as well. With a reassuring squeeze from my husband, I got to the end of the book (hopefully without Anna noticing my teary eyes!) In true toddler style, she just took it in her stride, asking a few casual questions, and then demanding that I read it again!

This week blog was written by the Fonetti Comms Team and features Nicky Nash, The author of Our World Needs a Clean and was published on 23rd April 2020 

We’ve shared the book together many times now, and she loves the story within it. She’s fully embraced the concept of the Kings and Queens cleaning the world, and she’s amazed me with how quickly and easily she’s accepted this and adapted. She knows that one day, life will go back to normal for her, and she’s content with this. She’s also mastered video calls – often taking on the role of ‘leader’ within the group and has managed to get the whole family involved in group singing and dancing!

It will never cease to amaze me how resilient and adaptable children are. Often, it is us, as parents, who create unnecessary worries by projecting our own anxieties onto our children. I am trying hard to ensure that my children’s memories of this time will be ones of love, laughter and security, rather than worry. I hope that my book has been helpful in achieving this, for my daughter, and any other children who go on to read it.

I am very grateful to Louise Gribbons for giving me permission to adapt her poem in this way, and to Fonetti for enabling me to share my book more widely.
Read ‘Our World Needs A Clean’ on Fonetti today.

A note from our Co-founder/CEO, Kim Antoniou

I was absolutely thrilled to be introduced to Nicky recently and just love the motivation and story behind the book. The idea of going to all of this effort to simply help your own children understand why they are restricted at this incredibly unusual time was extremely compelling for me which is why we asked if we could publish and share the book on Fonetti so that our little readers and their families could get some comfort and pleasure from the story and we were delighted when Nicky said “yes” we could! 

“We are donating 10p to the NHS charities for every single read of the book on Fonetti”

When we first spoke Nicky shared with me her desire to use the book to raise money for the NHS charities and to that end we have shared a link to her fundraising page below.

However, we felt that simply sharing this link did not seem an adequate enough effort on our part so in addition to making the book FREE on our platform forever we have decided that we will donate 10p to the charity every single time the book is read on Fonetti. – So all your little readers need to do help raise cash for our amazing NHS is to read the book aloud and we will donate on their behalf.




Click here to donate to
Nicky’s campaign

Fonetti and Dyslexia – Victoria’s Story

Fonetti and Dyslexia – Victoria’s Story

Fonetti and Dyslexia – Victoria’s Story

How dyslexia can affect confidence

Cast your mind back to your school days. To your English class:

Silent desks with bowed heads all reading the same text as one of your classmates reads a page aloud. You sit with sweaty palms, crossing your fingers, legs and eyes that you won’t be chosen to read.

Not today, please not today

But then the talking stops and your name is called.

You’re up next. It’s ok, you think. You’ve got this, you’re amongst friends. You clear your throat and begin to speak, then it starts.

The words start dancing on the page before your eyes and you can’t keep up. The order is wrong. You’re talking but the sentences make no sense and you can’t disguise the trembling in your voice.

Just as your classmates can’t hide their laughter.

Dyslexia PLUS 1, confidence MINUS 10.

Street-cred shattered.

Love of reading non-existent.

Sound familiar?

If so, it’s not an experience you want your own children to share is it?

Of course, it’s not just dyslexia that sponsored this situation.

Shyness, anxiety and lots of other reasons all caused similar scenarios at the expense of learning and a lost love of literature.

We’re a family at Fonetti and it’s no secret that our brand was born from personal experience with dyslexia and a need to support a new generation facing the same battle.

One that faced the same traditional learning tools so out of date with modern life.

That’s why we want to share Vicki’s story… as a beacon of hope and to bring peace of mind to other parents who read it.

From Wuthering Heights to heightened anxiety

“I was diagnosed with Dyslexia when I was 7. I was one of the cool kids at school and hid my dyslexia well. But one of my biggest fears was reading aloud in front of my classmates.

I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t control my reading, knowing I’d stumble and make mistakes. I was anxious and felt physically sick. My heart would pound and I’d begin to shake at just the thought of being chosen to read. I always hoped that I’d be given a short paragraph, so not prolong the agony.

Outside of the classroom I wasn’t safe. Reading was still a huge hurdle for me – one I could conquer at my own pace but not under pressure.”

Shamed by a 6-year-old:

I remember vividly being 16 and babysitting for a 6-year-old friend of the family. She asked me to read her a bedtime story from one of her books. To be honest I didn’t think anything of it as she was only 6! However, I didn’t even get two pages into the story before she took the book off me and said:

“I can read better than you, I’ll read it to you, instead shall I?”. 

I felt heartbroken that I even struggled to read to a young child.

I remember feeling petrified thinking:

What will happen when I have children of my own, how will I manage to help them with their reading?

Fast-forward 30 years

I have a 10-year-old son who also suffers with Dyslexia as well as ADHD. Of course, my reading has improved immensely, but the memories are still as raw as they were years ago.

I do still struggle reading aloud but as an adult you know how to overcome it. I read everything clearly and correctly in my head but the pressure of reading aloud still means my speech is often lost in translation.

I worry for my son. I don’t want my experience to be his. Neither do I want him to miss out on reading for pleasure like I did. That’s why I introduced him to Fonetti.

Like many schools, his uses iPads to enhance learning.

So, he knows his way around technology with ease. He knows his phonics as well as his alphabet and is confident talking to me about words and vocabulary.

But ask him to read aloud and I recognise that our bodies speak the same language:

Fear

Freedom to read with Fonetti

Fonetti provides a forcefield to fear. It’s a safe place to practise reading aloud with confidence.

Without judgement or criticism.

And he absolutely loves it

It gives him independence – he can read with or without me. In fact, he prefers the latter.

There have been so many times where I’ve tried to help him read a story with Fonetti and he’s said:

“Mum, Fonetti can help me, you just go and do your work.”

With Fonetti there’s no distractions – just a focus on finishing.

He loves the fact that every word he reads turns green when he’s read it correctly and that he can double tap a word for it to be read to him if he needs help.

Some books are a much lower level than what he is actually capable of reading but he loves reading them too as it builds his confidence up when he gets them 100% correct without any help…it also builds up his rewards which he thrives on.

I only wish Fonetti was around 30 years ago, because I have no doubt that my confidence would have grown in abundance.

So would my relationship with books.

Rather than feeling fear or frustration I’d feel free to experience the joy of reading at my own pace, without pressure.

Reading should be fun

Whether your children are reading to themselves or reading aloud, fear should never be a factor.

Every child should be able to get lost in a world of words, taken on endless adventures and enjoy the escapism and excitement reading brings.

Fonetti guarantees that. It’s why we created our app and the reason we’re here to help every child ignite a love of reading. 

A note from Kim, our CEO & Co-Founder

For those of you that do not already know, Victoria & Ollie are my daughter and grandson and watching how they have coped with dyslexia over the two generations together with my understanding around how their challenges have made them feel at times was a big part of the motivation behind the creation of Fonetti in the first place.

It is incredibly rewarding for me to actually see children that would  struggle reading in conventional way enjoying reading with Fonetti and without a doubt it was an extremely touching moment for me the first time that a child said that Fonetti made them feel brave!