A former teacher hopes his app will reconnect kids of all backgrounds and capabilities with brilliant books and local libraries.
The Reading Realm is a brand-new education iPad app for children, teachers and parents. The purpose of the app is to promote reading for pleasure, encourage children to widen their reading choices and provide a range of open-ended discussion guides and prompts to foster authentic, passionate book-talk. There are also interactive games, allowing children to explore grammar, spelling and word play in context.
“The Reading Realm offers something very special,” says founder Ian Eagleton. “With the click of a button, children are given the opportunity to escape from the comfort of their chair, just for a little while, into a magical word where words shimmer, stories weave their magic, characters come to life and exciting, strange and new adventures wait for them.”
Eagleton was born in Essex, has taught for 12 years, was an English co-ordinator for 10 years and is now an education consultant. He has an NPQSL, which involved researching how to develop and improve reading and writing outcomes across a whole-school setting. Ian also works as a resource developer for The Literacy Shed and Authorfy, creating schemes of work. He also runs writing workshops for children and supports teachers to develop their confidence when teaching reading and writing.
On this project, Ian has worked with Angel Applications, which was founded in 2010 and was the very first company to create apps for schools in the UK.
Since the launch of the app, a number of teachers also work on a freelance basis, helping with the writing of original content and also writing materials, reviews and author interviews for The Reading Realm blog.
What’s the gap in the market?
“As a teacher, I was often making resources for my children because I could never find what I wanted,” Eagleton explains. “Lots of teachers were often telling me the same thing and I wanted a digital platform where teachers could find a wide range of stories, poems and non-fiction texts with all the support they would need to deliver high-quality, interactive lessons. I didn’t want the app to be about test questions or to be about barking at print – I wanted something to engage children and celebrate reading.
“I also desperately wanted the app to encourage children to connect, or re-connect, with their local libraries. With the closure of so many across the country, this has become a vital and important part of the work we do at The Reading Realm.
“I wanted something that was dyslexic friendly and would encourage reluctant readers to try lots of different snippets from books, in the hope that they might find the perfect fit for them.
“Finally, I ran a series of workshops for parents about bedtime reading and so many parents were asking me for book recommendations, I knew I had to include further book suggestions for each extract in the app, so that children and parents can seek out new authors who they might never have heard of.”
Success so far?
Within the first week, The Reading Realm app reached the top 5 in the iTunes education charts and was in the top 10 in the charts overall. The app continues to gain in popularity and the feedback from teachers, parents, children and librarians has been “phenomenal”, according to Eagleton.
“Parents have contacted to say it has inspired their children to find new books and read outside their comfort zone. Teachers have sent messages of thanks too. It’s this support that means the most – the feedback on how the app is supporting teachers in their classroom and also inspiring children. “
The Reading Realm is now working with new publishers and authors to add more content and games, with a focus on stories, books and poems that promote diversity and inclusion.
“We are working with some children at various schools to include original material in the app, written by children and for children. We will also be developing a new app next year…but that’s all under wraps for now!”
The biggest challenge has been sourcing and writing all the material for the app.
“The app has taken around four years to complete. Although I now have a small team to help with future updates, I wrote all the resources myself, contacted publishers and authors to gain rights and permissions, worked on font, colours and designs and worked into the early hours of the morning for many months to ensure the games and resources in the app were purposeful, engaging and inspiring.
“Another challenge was the testing of the app. To send something so important to you out into the world is very nerve-wracking. There were crashes, problems, suggestions, queries and confusion about how one particular game worked. Whilst difficult to accept at first, this was a very important stage that allowed The Reading Realm app to develop even further and improve.”
Eagleton aims to continue to develop the app and keep adding more content. “Ultimately, my ambition is to inspire a lifelong love of reading in our children,” he says. “For children to feel passionate about books and feel propelled to seek out, in their local library or bookshop, the authors and titles they have explored in the app.”
Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?
“Keep going and don’t give up. Ensuring you are passionate about your product and know its value and worth will help you when it all gets too much and you feel like giving up.”