October 20, 2014 12:35 PM EDT

Can your 5-year-old distinguish between information provided by pictures and information provided by words? Is your 9-year-old able to explain how an author uses evidence to support a claim? Can your 12-year-old analyze the strength of a persuasive debate? These are just a few of the skills students are expected to master in today’s classrooms. It’s a challenging time for teachers, students, and parents. That is why we are thrilled to announce the launch of the TIME For Kids Classroom App. The app is a dynamic teaching tool that combines current events with multimedia content. It helps students in kindergarten through sixth grade acquire literacy skills and gives teachers the resources they need to help students achieve their goals.

This app is two years in the making: In research sessions and classroom visits, teachers told us they needed a tablet app that could deliver a wide range of tools and resources. They told us that

* The app had to provide authentic, informational text to accommodate learners at different skill levels, giving students a window on the world while building knowledge and vocabulary and complementing curriculum;

* Activities, maps, and charts had to be interactive, grabbing and holding kids’ attention;

* Features needed to encourage critical thinking. Text and videos had to spark class discussions and debate, and allow students to interact with their peers;

* The app had to supply teachers with resources, including planning guides and standards-aligned lessons;

* And teachers also needed an easy-to-access assessment tool to allow them to track student progress and pinpoint student needs.

One more thing: teachers insisted the app be fun, tapping into students’ curiosity and love of technology.

Our innovative solution to their requests is an app that has two separate views for each grade level‑one for teachers and the other for students. In the teacher view, Extra Teacher Content and Common Core State Standard tabs provide educators with top-notch reporting and photographs from time.com, standards-aligned lessons and assessment questions, easy access to student quiz results and progress reports. (Because we are committed to safeguarding student and educator privacy, TIME For Kids will not collect any personal information about students. Instead, we have devised a system that gives each teacher control of student pins and IDs. At the end of every school year, student assessment results will be deleted.)

In the student view, a variety of engaging stories explain complex issues, introduce real-world concerns, and explore topics that kids care about. For example, in this week’s app for grades 5 and 6, we informed readers about Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize, explained why volcanoes erupt, and presented a TFK Kid Reporter interview of student favorite, author Rick Riordan. Each week, students are presented with a debate issue or poll question. They can cast a vote and immediately see how other kids around the country feel about a topic. A recent example: 74% of students polled think kids should be allowed to bring their own devices to school, but fewer than 12% think 8-year-olds should own cell phones. Quizzes embedded in the app allow students to gain confidence by exploring the text and multimedia features for answers. The app has a read-aloud feature for the main story and for a lower-level version of that story. It also includes a Spanish-language translation. Most important: Every step of the way, students are encouraged to engage with each other and to enjoy reading, viewing, listening, participating, and learning.

We are committed to helping students become discerning, lifelong readers and to giving them a deeper, richer understanding of our country and the world. Much is asked of kids today. Much more will be demanded of them as they move on to college and the workforce. We hope the Time For Kids weekly classroom app will help smooth the way. The app is available free through December. We hope you will take a look at the samples of it in the iTunes education store and then encourage your children’s teachers to sign up for it at timeforkids.com/tfkapp.

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Contact us at letters@time.com.

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