Educational app aims to increase Osceola County literacy rate

By Stephanie Bechara, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 09, 2017, 5:57 PM EDT

In Osceola County, only a third of students are academically prepared for their first day of elementary school. But a new, free app aims to turn that around.

Emerson Taft, 5, will start kindergarten this year, while her little brother is going into voluntary pre-kindergarten, also known as VPK.

Her favorite app at the moment is called Footsteps2Brilliance, which is part of the county’s Osceola Reads campaign.

“It's phenomenal,” her mother, Lisa Taft, said. Emerson plays with the app at least once a day. “She's having fun while learning so it is a game for her,” Taft said.

The app, which aims to increase children’s literacy rates county-wide, launched last year and already boasts 4,658 users.

“It's like 10 apps in one, and it's free, which is even better,” Taft said.

Last school year, only 13 percent of children in Osceola County were ready for kindergarten. However, that readiness rate is now up to 33 percent.

Teachers in the district think the app has made an impact.

“This helps us as teacher," said Michelle Brown, a VPK teacher at Lakeview Elementary. "We find out where they're at, and we build with them and we can grow deep and wide instead of narrow and shallow, so this app helps us. It builds a strong foundation children need for academic success for kindergarten.”

With bookbags in hand, the Tafts are ready to tackle the new school year.

“I will do anything I can do and find her any app or go to the lengths of the world to make sure she succeeds in school,” Taft said.

The app has a bilingual option to teach children both in English and Spanish.

The school district encourages parents to download the app for their children before the school year starts.