Learn to Read by Writing: Write to Read App

learn to read by writing ipad appApp:  Write to Read

Developer:  WriteReader

Platform:  iPad (English, Danish, Swedish)

Price:  $6.99 Download Write to Read

Category:  Reading and Writing Apps


Write to Read is a book-making app with an educated twist.  Children aged three and up are encouraged to write at their own developmental level. An adult helper “translates” the child’s efforts into a proper sentence which is compared to the child’s efforts. There is no wrong answer here; the child learns from experiencing language at his own level.  Essentially, the child will learn to read by writing!


Write to Read App Example

How it Works: Learn to Read by Writing

Images are inserted into the book similar to other story-making apps. The child types his story using keyboard choices of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, phonics sounds, or letter names. The voice recording option makes the experience personal and relatable.  The finished book can be printed, shared to FaceBook, or emailed from within the app.   WriteReader, the developer, demonstrates “Write to Read” in action:



Why it Works

What makes “Write to Read” stand out among book making apps is the second text box, where adults write a corrected version of the child’s sentence. The child can compare his spelling and sentence structure to the adults. The finished result is a legible book in the child’s words.  This is a together time app, and casual feeling adult-child time is key to creating a learning experience.

Founder Janus Madsen is a Danish teacher who has been using “Write to Read” techniques in the classroom for over fifteen years. Madsen explains, “The app is based on the same processes as when children are learning how to speak. The child tries to say a word or a phrase and then parents, siblings, grandparents or other caregivers praise the child and repeat what the child was trying to say.”


A Learning Tool Based in Research

“Write to Read” is the result of Danish research into the benefits of teaching children reading by having them write text of their choice at their own developmental level. This informal and child-driven approach helps the connection between letters and sounds develop naturally.

The Danish Agency for Science, Technology, and Education helped fund the research behind the app. The app’s methods were trialed with children aged four to eight in Denmark and in the U.S. The results of the study showed that the “learn to read by writing” approach motivated children to write and read. Who wouldn’t want their child to feel motivated about reading and writing?


The Write to Read App and the Autistic Child

Flexibility and built-in success are some of the pluses the “Write to Read” app brings to supporting children with Autism in writing, reading, and (this is a biggie) creative expression. Images can be chosen by the child, or an adult can choose images that will stimulate a child’s interests. Verbal children can record their own voices. Adults or peers can also record for them. One or two typed letters are recognized as creativity and can be built upon to create a book the child feels is his own.


Some other possible uses would be:

  • Taking an iPad picture of a page of a book so the child can write comprehension or descriptive statements.
  • Preparing a child for text to speech communication by encouraging self expression and typing.
  • Supporting IEP goals by using the second text box to model desired answers.
  • Encouraging shared activities and turn taking by using a peer model instead of an adult “translator.”
  • Increasing self regulation by having the child create activity schedules or behavioral reinforcers.


Visual Rule in Write  to Read

Clara-Bear helped create her own rule book in “Write to Read” by answering the question, “What do ears do?”

Kid Testing the “Write to Read” App

Clara-Bear (7 years old, ASD & Down Syndrome) was tired and resistive when we made our first book with “Write to Read.” I was worried that the brief introductory music would trigger “grabby hands” and loss of focus, but luckily she was interested in her picture choices. I always preview an app before trying it with her so was prepared for the intro music, but I did wish that I could turn it off.

We made a book with images of our family. Usually I can give Clara-Bear some sentence ideas and she chooses what she wants to write. Tonight she ignored me and wrote one word labels. Very basic, but hey, it was HER book and HER choice. She became really excited when she heard my recording of her book, and my primarily non-verbal girl started reading the pages out loud.


A page from Clara-Bear's family book.

A page from Clara-Bear’s family book.


Alan (6 years old, TD) made three books in three days! He’s in Speech Therapy for articulation problems and the voice recording option is helping his speech clarity. With no prompting from mommy, he started playing back his recordings and re-recording it if words were unclear! I loved hearing him mutter “that didn’t sound right” and carefully reading the page again.

Alan quickly learned how to take his own pictures and to pull from the camera roll.  He wanted to draw a picture and photograph it with the iPad (my lazy alternative to scanning). Instead, he used a doodle app and we took a screenshot:


Write to Read image using doodle app

The birthplace of “Rick”, the secret identity of the new superhero “Pig Dude”!


He has an over the top imagination, but took the safe route when writing creative sentences in Kindergarten last year. He was equally cautious with the “Write Reader” app at first; choosing only words that he knew how to spell. The nonjudgmental mirrored writing has been surprisingly liberating for him. He’s actually eager for me to write the corrected sentence, and cheers when he has it right! His writing is already starting to keep pace with his mind and catch up to his vocabulary.  Alan’s conclusion?  “I’m a real author!”


Write to Read is a True Educational Tool

Remember, “Write to Read” is an educational tool, not a game app.  How-to teach writing and reading books and workbooks can cost up to five times more than this app without the appeal.

Here’s what you get with the “Write to Read” app purchase:

  • A research based, child centered, motivating app that makes creativity a shared experience.
  • “App Tips” from the developer to help you make the most of the educational experience.
  • An in-app instructional video.
  • Links to research and papers explaining how this unique learning method works.
  • A child-friendly keyboard with color coded vowel/consonant keys, upper and lower case letters, and your choice of letter names or phonics sounds.
  • Language choices of American English, UK English, Swedish, and Danish.
  • An interactive WriteReader Facebook page.
  • An optional newsletter.
  • And, coming soon – the WriteReader Blog!


Want to Get This App?


Download Write to Read



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Who’s Behind Autism Plugged In?

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Several years ago, I began volunteering with special needs kids, who gave me much joy and an appreciation for life. This blog is my way of giving back. Any proceeds from this effort are used to support my friends with autism. Read more about Jack or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.