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Mentava review - why I didn't subscribe to the $500 a month learn to read app

Published: at 07:22 PM

Ultimately, I decided not to pay $500 a month for the Mentava app for my daughter. Not because it’s a bad app, and maybe not even because it doesn’t work.

My daughter is three years old, and about six months ago, we started playing what we call “The Reading Game,” which is our name for Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. I can’t recall where I first learned about the book, but I was eager to pick it up. I’m not Nathan Huffner—my kids have plenty of play—but I also want them to have all the advantages possible. You know, like most parents.

My daughter was really eager to jump into learning to read, but she had a hard time sitting still. Even when she would, we ran into problems during the blending phase (learning that cat isn’t c-a-t, but one singular word). So I decided that we’d put the book away for a bit and revisit.

A few months after, I learned about Mentava. I came across it in the dumbest way possible. Some woman in the Bay Area had posted about it, complaining that it was equivalent to sending the kids to the mines, or something. I don’t know. I’m probably misstating her actual complaint, but I’m likely not far off.

Mentava has an app (iOS only) that comes with a seven day trial before a $500 a month subscription. The company claims that, for kids who are ready, it takes two to three months for the app to teach them to read, so you’re looking at $1000 to $1500.

My daughter loved the app, and she couldn’t wait to play it every day. My wife mentioned a couple of times, “at $500 a month, couldn’t they make better graphics?” My daughter didn’t mind, though. She found the app engaging, and she especially loved when the cow character would dance a silly dance at a night club. (I’m not making this up.)

She blew through the first dozen or so lessons before she started to fun into some challenges. Although it’s so obvious to us, kids don’t really realize that there’s an order to letters. The app tries to simplify this a bit by starting off with emojis, however my daughter struggled to understand that “fish dog” referred to 🐟🐶 and not 🐶🐟.

The people behind the app are incredibly useful. I wrote into them about this problem and the Product Manager had some great tips on how to teach this skill to my daughter or determine that she wasn’t ready.

In the end, though, I had to make the difficult decision not to continue after the trial. More difficult by the fact that my daughter still asks to play the “iPad reading game.”

So, did I think it wasn’t going to work? Not exactly.

I suspected that, with enough time, the app would have worked well, and it probably would have worked better than other resources.

The reason, though, that I decided not to continue with the subscription is the price tag. My family is fortunate enough that the cost would not have been prohibitive if I knew that it would have worked in two, three, even four months. I didn’t know that, and I hate spending money unnecessarily.

Because of that, my main fear was that the high cost would have put me in a place where I was putting extra pressure on my daughter so that I would “get my money’s worth.” That pressure could lead to hear having a bad experience with learning to read, or even deciding that she didn’t like reading.

I will likely come back to the app at some point when I am more certain that my daughter is ready. In the meantime, I don’t think I’m robbing my daughter of future opportunities (I hope), and there is still a lot we can do to get her excited about reading. We read to her plenty, and we point out letters as we see them around town. This way, when we come back to the app, she’ll have a good foundation.