A pioneering Solihull-born teacher who taught millions how to read is now helping people to learn while on the move.
Christopher Thorne became an internet sensation with a series of spelling videos for pupils which he posted on YouTube last year.
More than two million people have since tuned into the teacher’s “phonics” classes, which use the sounds of groups of letters to help with reading and writing.
The Mr Thorne Does Phonics videos, which started out as a tool for pupils, parents and teaching staff, have turned into a worldwide phenomenon, with people logging on from as far afield as Brazil and the US.
Mr Thorne, aged 28, has now made the move into the mobile market with the launch of his new apps for the iPhone and iPad.
“It’s been a really hectic time getting the apps off the ground,” said Mr Thorne, a former pupil at King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys.
“The response I had from people for the Mr Thorne Does Phonics videos was all positive, but people started to ask for something they could use for their children while they were on their way to school or on a long car journey, so I came up with the app.”
The new apps, which are available from this week, feature dozens of literacy lessons for children, parents, teachers and anyone learning to read English, using the synthetic phonics approach to learning to read.
Mr Thorne’s videos, which often feature help from his puppy Sophie and character Geraldine the giraffe, involve the linking of sounds of spoken with letters or groups of letters and been viewed 2,060,000 times.
Following his success on YouTube, the teacher created an eponymous website with free reading support for children, parents, teachers and anyone with English as a second language.
Mr Thorne’s work has proved so successful he is now working as a consultant on a new TV show, as well as developing range of DVDs to be used as teaching tools in the classroom.
“Its been really, really busy time,” added Mr Thorne, who teaches Year 1 at a primary school in Hampstead, London.
“I realised there was a difference in the way children were being taught how to read at school and at home with their families, so this really started as a way to help parents and teachers and grew from there.
“I’ve had a lot on, but I’m so pleased the apps are out there now as it means I can focus on teaching children in my class. All the parents have been so supportive, and I’ve had emails from some of my old teachers who have picked up on the media coverage I’ve had.”
The success of Mr Thorne Does Phonics comes after Government plans were announced in November for all six-year-olds to be tested on reading skills.
Ministers want primary schools to focus on teaching children to read using phonics and said the tests would help identify those “falling behind”.
The tests, which will be piloted later this year, come as Government figures show one in six of seven-year-old children and nearly one in five 11-year-olds fail to reach the level expected for their age group in reading.
The pilot is to go ahead despite a review commissioned by the Government calling said for the idea should be scrapped and that children should “be tested only on their ability to read”.
Bernadette Duffy, a member of the review panel, said earlier this month: “If you look at the early-years foundation stage profile results, linking sounds to letters has gone up, but that has not necessarily been matched by a similar increase in children reading.
“This change will help practitioners remember there is more to reading than simply encoding and decoding the letters and sounds.”
* For more information, visit www.mrthorne.com