Duolingo has created another FREE app for kids during this critical time when parents have also become teachers. Duolingo ABC aims to teach children (ages 3-6) how to read and write. There are more than 300 lessons focusing on letter recognition, phonemic awareness, sight words, and guided writing. So of course we tried it! My 4-year old hasn’t had much experience on iPads since apps/games are not typically our screen of choice. However, she jumped at the chance and was immediately engaged. 

Players complete a profile, select a level (based on letter/sound knowledge), choose an avatar, and they’re off. The app includes lessons on letter recognition (“Tap on the letter T every time you see it”), letter to sound correspondence (“Which letter makes the /t/ sound”), letter matching (“Drag the uppercase letters to their lowercase letters”), and guided writing, which shows the accurate writing strokes for letters. Duolingo ABC created learning exercises that also reinforce phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds in spoken words and is essential to learning how to read. The earliest phonemic awareness skill is rhyming, which is addressed in Duolingo ABC, and skills progress even further to initial sound identification (“Touch the things that start with /t/, as in turtle). 

My emergent reader was especially motivated by getting “badges” after completing tasks, commenting “Oh! I get a pencil badge (for writing),” and “Can I just do one more? I really want the M badge.” Her favorite badge was her personalized name badge, which she received for writing her name. Combining learning and gaming, Duolingo ABC is a fun and effective way to learn early phonemic awareness skills, sight words, letters, and writing. It has become a daily practice in our house! It will keep your child independently engaged so that you can take a conference call while not feeling guilty that they’re on a screen.   

Available at Duolingo

By Erika Cardamone MS, CCC-SLP

Speech-language pathologist, Mom, toy reviewer, speaker, foodie, runner