Red Apple founder Tammy Bennecke started her career in the classroom, helping 6- and 7-year-olds tap into the wonders of the written word. “What I loved the most was watching that little light bulb go off in a first grader’s head,” she wrote in her blog in 2012, but she couldn’t help noticing a disturbing pattern as she began moving to older classrooms. It was clear that children who fell a few steps behind in earlier years were discouragingly unlikely to catch up and might even be at greater risk of dropping out by the time they reached high school.
Undaunted, Bennecke left institutional education to combat adolescent illiteracy through Red Apple Reading, an online program of easily-digestible reading concepts that encourages interactivity and comes with trackable progress reports for parents and teachers. The system is designed to keep kids engaged and entertained: goofy animals and skateboarding kids parade across screens and flashcards, and reward points and bonus games provide a sense of accomplishment normally reserved for the 1 in 10,000 children who can successfully work the claw machine at the arcade.