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Speakaboos Raises A $12.5 Million Funding Round To Inspire A Love For Reading In Every Child

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Speakaboos is a reading motivation app designed for children 2 – 6 years old. Speakaboos rethinks and approaches kids’ mobile screen time with engaging and highly interactive educational digital stories so that children choose reading. The company has recently announced a $12.5 million funding round. Part of Series B-1 funding will be dedicated to marketing efforts including recently announced “Turning Screen Time into Reading Time” television campaign. Below is our interview with Neal Shenoy, CEO and Co-founder of Speakaboos:


Q: Neal, please tell us how the idea to create Speakaboos was born?

A: When we address early childhood literacy we often focus on learning to read. The result is that we overlook the critical importance of loving to read. Just because a child knows how to read doesn’t mean that they want to read or choose to read. The result is that by third grade, 66% of children do not read at grade level and that is because they are simply not interested or motivated to do so.

We realized that the solution was to focus on intrinsic motivation. What if we could motivate young children, through a highly scientific, research-driven product, to want to learn and to become lifelong learners? This begins with a love of reading. It begins with children choosing reading. And often choosing reading over games and video.

Speakaboos is a reading motivation app designed for children 2 – 6 years old that features highly engaging and educational interactive stories delivered across web, mobile and tablet via subscription that connects schools and homes.

Our mission is to motivate children to become lifelong learners and that begins by inspiring a love of reading.

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Q: Tell us something more about Speakaboos and your services?

A: Speakaboos is developed by renowned educational children’s media professionals including Dr. Alice Wilder, one of the world’s leading experts on literacy through media. With Speakaboos, Dr. Wilder brings her expertise in literacy, educational psychology and formative research in developing series like Blue’s Clues and Super WHY! to building an interactive, digital educational app for children that motivates young children to read. Just as Blue’s Clues transformed kids’ educational television programming, Speakaboos rethinks and approaches kids’ mobile screen time with engaging and highly interactive educational digital stories so that children choose reading.

Here’s how we approach the development of our award-winning service.

First, the Speakaboos library features high-interest categories that capture kids attention. Dr. Alice’s educational model is built on research that demonstrates that learning occurs best when a child is engaged. Our catalog is based on a broad set of high-interest topics and characters that connect children to the stories they love, which results in children reading—and reading more.

Second, Speakaboos stories are tested with children during our formative research process for engagement. Speakaboos engages children in reading through a designed approach to storytelling, narration, animation, and interactivity that underscores reading comprehension. For children, reading on Speakaboos is as engaging as watching television or playing games.

Third, all Speakaboos stories focus on comprehension that connects words to meaning. Our educator-developed and kid-tested pedagogy—which incorporates read-along highlighted text, words pronounced upon click, illustrations and animation that match narration, and interactivity that advances the plot line – enable children to understand a story, a character’s unique point of view and to apply these learnings to their own lives.

Fourth, Speakaboos builds mastery in young readers with scaffolded reading levels. Speakaboos stories feature multiple modes based on a child’s individual reading level. In Read to Me mode, words are highlighted as the story progresses and help children build reading background knowledge as well as fluency and vocabulary. In Read & Play mode, comprehension is further scaffolded as their interactions unlock key elements of the story. Finally, in Read It Myself mode, children develop independent reading skills by progressing through stories at their own pace. Children can begin with the scaffold that most aligns with their reading level and push themselves to master additional modes as they gain fluency and confidence.

Fifth, Speakaboos is self-directed and self-paced and empowers children to read independently. Speakaboos can be used by children as young as two years old to find stories that they love and to engage in reading independent of parents and educators.

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Q: What are the biggest benefits for the users?

A: By signing up for Speakaboos, families get unlimited access to over 200 premium interactive stories. It’s an incredible library of highly engaging stories that motivates children to read – and read more! On average, children spend over 22 minutes per session and dedicate nearly one third of their monthly digital screen time reading on Speakaboos. The result is that Speakaboos turns screen time into reading time. We’ve heard from parents across the country, when their children reach for the tablet, they are choosing reading with Speakaboos over traditional games and apps. By choosing Speakaboos, kids #ChooseReading!

And, with stories featuring multiple reading modes, Speakaboos is great for readers of all levels and households with children of different ages. Speakaboos can grow with readers as well, as we offer stories for pre and early readers all the way to fully independent readers.

No wifi? No problem. Unlike many other reading apps and digital entertainment for kids, Speakaboos works on mobile devices even without an internet connection. Kids can take Speakaboos on the go which is great for busy families running errands, or taking long trips.

Most importantly, Speakaboos inspires a love of reading for children. We can’t emphasize how important it is for a child not only to learn to read, but to love reading.

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Q: You’ve recently announced a $12.5 million series B funding round; what are your plans?

A: Speakaboos has focused on building the best multi-platform app and digital library for inspiring a love of reading in every child. With over 200 interactive stories based on kids’ favorite topics and characters, we’re now focusing on marketing efforts to heighten awareness among consumers including parents and educators. Part of our Series B-1 funding will be dedicated to these marketing efforts including our recently announced “Turning Screen Time into Reading Time” television campaign which just began airing nationally. We’re also engaging parenting influencers through a digital #ChooseReading campaign to further spread the news about our award-winning app and the profound importance of developing children’s love of reading at an early age.

Q: What is your biggest achievement so far?

A: Children love the product and it really works. When we speak to educators they tell us that students that did not enjoy reading prior to Speakaboos ask for more time to read in class. Parents tell us that Speakaboos has made reading their child’s first choice. There’s a tremendous amount of gratification in seeing that impact realizing that a love of reading results in a love of learning and ultimately sets up a child for academic success.

Last Updated on June 10, 2016

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