Photo Credit: Me
Grimm’s Red Riding Hood – is an animated, interactive storybook for young kids that features some of the coolest use of the accelerometer (for the background shots) that I’ve seen in a kids app. You can read at your own pace or have a narrator read along with you. After each page or two, you are shown a wonderful, 3-D ‘pop-up book’ scene that goes along with the story and has games within it or interactivity to enhance the story for the reader.
Pros: Great animation, graphics and sound. The story is a classic, and is smoothly narrated when that option is selected. The pop-up scenes are fun to interact with and some even feature built in mini-games that help advance the story. The user-interface is slick and bug free and quite intuitive for kids: you can either use the arrows along the bottom of the screen or just drag the pages forward and back, as you would a real book.
Cons: It would have been nice to have a few more ‘game like’ features in the app to keep kids attention and allow them to interact more with the story.
Score: 4 and ½ out of 5 paperweights
Price: (as of March 1, 2012) Free
Sleuth, aka: 5 minute mysteries, bills itself as the “The world’s first interactive educational ebook game”. It is an app that is also a book of short-stories that is also a game. Thanks to the clever use of a “clues” page and a “solve” page, the app is able to be 99% pure text yet feel like a real ‘game’ at the same time. After reading a story, or case file, the reader can proceed directly to the “solve” screen to try to solve the caseor can utilize the “clues” page which zeroes in on specific, pertinent clues and details that were sprinkled throughout the story.
Pros: This is a truly great app for what it is built for. The main purpose of this app is to get users reading and enjoying stories. By adding in the ‘interactivity’ of clues and a solve feature, it turns a story into a game. The stories themselves are short, well-written, and logical enough to satisfy many an armchair sleuth. The sound effects are nice and only used sparingly, which is to good effect in a text-based environment, so that the senses aren’t overwhelmed. Though it may not look like much (mostly just text on a screen), this app represents something very exciting to me: a way to get kids reading and enjoying reading more.
Cons: Though it is great to think of kids, teens and adults reading several pages of a story and enjoying the process purely for itself, adding a few nice visuals or even a well animated cut-scene at the end of each clue or case could go a long way for this generation’s digital kids. Also, there are some spelling and grammar mistakes that I’ve seen in a couple of the stories, but none that interfered with understanding.
Score: 3 and 1/2 out of 5 paperweights
Price as of February 2012: $0.99 (Though there is a limited FREE version I think you can try)
Photo Credit: Mine all mine!
After scouring the app store for four hours (literally) I was able to identify and download 15 apps that I thought (and hoped) would promote literacy and a love of reading for kids and teens that used the apps.
This was initially a homework assignment for my “Mobile Phones and Learning” class at Columbia, but I found myself wanting to go far beyond the required review of a single app and look at as many as I could find.
The BAD news is that there really aren’t that many apps out there that focus on literacy and reading, especially when you consider the amount focused on math and other subject areas. There are, of course, many apps devoted to teaching kids the basics of phonics and letters, but few apps or games were to be found that helped or encouraged older kids to read and to love reading and find it an enjoyable past time.
The GOOD news is that I *did* find a few apps that I consider to be amazing and would wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone with kids or who teaches reading or English.
So…in the coming days and weeks, I will share a review of each of the apps I test out. Hopefully you will be able to benefit from the reviews in a variety of ways, even if it’s just learning what app should be on your ‘must have’ list for your kid’s upcoming birthday.
Stay tuned: the first review will be out tomorrow!