Daniel Senn, CEO and Founder of reading app Poio, on providing a compelling, gamified alternative to traditional learning methods
As is the case for many founders, the idea for my company, Poio, came from personal experience. I was inspired to look into alternative learning methods following the birth of my son Leon, who was born with a hearing difficulty. I knew that as Leon grew, certain skills, like reading, would be more difficult for him to grasp in a traditional classroom environment; which led me to consider the fact that the way we learn and acquire basic academic skills hasn’t evolved in decades.
As a teacher myself, I understand that the reason for why the way we learn skills like reading hasn’t changed is because, fundamentally, the method works. But does it work effectively, engagingly, and most importantly, equally for everyone? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Some children might take longer to grasp the basics of reading, some might be more easily distracted and others might find traditional methods boring. The school system relies on children developing at the same time, which isn’t possible, especially in bigger classrooms. This means that some children struggle and get left behind. In fact, 2018 statistics by the Department for Education show that 1 in 5 children left primary school last year unable to read or write properly.
What I felt was needed was a gamified way of learning - the more fun a child had while learning to read, the more likely they would be to enjoy reading in later life. And so my son Leon and I sat down to work on a gamified tool that would help him crack the reading code.
Reading app based on imaginary phonics world
Our experimentation with what is now Poio began when Leon was 3. He and I would sit at the kitchen table and construct paper-based games to help us practice phonics and combine letters into meaningful words. Before we knew it, we had built a whole imaginary world. At the centre of it was the troll, Poio. The aim of the game was to help Poio learn to read the storybook he has stolen from letter bugs (characters known as ‘readlings’). In a troll-like fit of pique, Poio had imprisoned these letter bugs, due to his frustration at being unable to understand the book. To help Poio learn to read, children must free the readlings and collect words. These words are broken down into individual phonetic letter sounds, helping children familiarise themselves with the letter and its corresponding sound (with a particular focus on vowel sounds, which are typically the most challenging).
Since the days of the kitchen table, Poio has become an entirely new learning method, encompassing an app and storybook. In order to find out how the story develops, children are encouraged to spell out the words they come across and drag them into a virtual book. We have also added exercises, such as drawing letters and matching sounds with the correct letter, helping to hone literacy skills, with the difficulty of the game automatically adapting to each child based on their skill level. Once the virtual book has been completed, the physical storybook can be bought by parents to be given to their children as a reward for teaching themselves how to read.
To date, Poio has helped over 100,000 Scandinavian children acquire the fundamental skills necessary to achieve reading proficiency. Poio has just launched in the UK and I am excited about the impact that could be had. I know that the Poio method works - it makes the classroom equal, it gives children enjoyment and most importantly, it arms them with a tool that they will use throughout their entire life.
For more information on reading app Poio, see www.poio.co.uk.