Local grandfather using tech skills to help kids create own stories
Dec 10, 2019 12:18PM
● By Josh Wood
Croft received help from his grandchildren to develop his reading app. (Photo courtesy of Darren Croft)
By Joshua Wood | [email protected]
A Cottonwood Heights resident wants to put the fun back in the fundamentals of reading. To do that, information technology specialist Darren Croft decided to make a reading and writing app that would encourage kids to create their own stories and get into reading.
The idea came to Croft when working with children in his local church. He noticed some of the kids having difficulty with reading and wanted to help them become stronger readers. He was also motivated by the fact that his young grandchildren would soon start reading. So he used his IT background to develop a unique reading app that has since been downloaded thousands of times. His aim is to add a fun, interactive element that will engage kids.
“I wanted to help kids read,” Croft said. “The more kids like to read, the more they will want to do it.”
After a lot of thought and planning, he developed the app called Read with Me Kids. The app is available for free on Android and the Apple App Store with additional features available for purchase. Read with Me Kids provides a variety of templates and features that children can use to create their own stories. They can make anything from a beginner’s alphabet book with pictures for each letter all the way up to story books they write themselves.
Another feature that has come about as Croft has developed the app is that people have begun ordering books that Croft will put together for them. They request various specifications, provide pictures and text they want included, and he creates it for them.
Croft studied electrical engineering in college, has worked in IT, and now is the chief information officer with his current company. He has been working on Read with Me Kids on the side.
“It was challenging,” Croft said. “There are so many ways to do programming.” He had to choose the right language to use and then work forward developing the various features he wanted to include in the app.
Then came the various revisions of the platform with incremental improvements. “I am on version 2.5 right now and have had three or four major iterations,” he said.
Croft has had a willing product tester in his 4-year-old granddaughter. “She loves the sticker feature, and she loves unicorns,” Croft said. She can create her own story book with her name on it and include all the unicorn illustrations she wants. Croft began developing the app with customizable features to help kids get excited about reading. As he moves forward, he will consider reaching out to schools to gauge their interest in using the app.
Thousands of people have downloaded the app, Croft said. “I have several hundred people currently using the app actively,” he said. He hopes to increase that number as he moves forward. He also hopes that future iterations in the app’s development will offer additional features to attract even more users.
As kids enjoy developing their own stories and picture books, they can strengthen their reading and writing skills. Croft hopes his app can help them along the way.