iPad Picture Books
A few weeks ago, I read Tad Hills’ fantastic How Rocket Learned to Read to my 4 and 5 year old classes (I teach in a progressive school with multi-age classrooms, so it’s pre-K and K combined) and they loved it. Rocket, a sweet but illiterate dog, is taught to read by a little bird, who is rather eccentric and inclined to think she’s a teacher. In any case, it’s a really amazing book and the older children, in particular, loved being able to read the words along with Rocket. Of the five classes I read it to, there was one group of 5 year olds, who really loved it and asked me to read several more times over the last few weeks after we had read other stories. So, this week, as a treat (and I suppose to fuel their obsession), I bought in the iPad version of the book for them.
As an app, I think it’s definitely one of the best ebooks I’ve seen. The narration is soft and sweet (I guess the bird doesn’t need to be quite as deranged as I portray her, although the kids laughed a lot more when I read it) and the words are highlighted in a really smart and well paced way. Unlike other picture book apps that are way too over stimulating, there is just enough animation to excite the kids – Rocket wags his tail, the bird flies on to his head, he blinks, etc. Interestingly, while the text is the same there have been some changes made to the way in which the illustrations are presented – zooming in and then out on a picture, separating one page of illustrations into three, etc. One of my favorite things about reading it as an app is getting to see Rocket practice writing his letters in the snow by running, which is a great original illustration, but really cool to see being done. There are also two great games to go along with the app; one for recognizing sight words and one for putting the alphabet in order.
It was really interesting to do it as a read aloud with a whole group of kids and a little awkward at first, but they all managed to get in a circle so they could see and were all very excited. Right away, a few kids asked if we were going to be able to look at books after we finished, which of course made me secretly very happy. They were all engaged and their favorite part seemed to be identifying what was animated in the picture, since sometimes it was a bit more subtle than others. We talked about how some of the pictures were different (like I said, we know this book really well now). There was also information about the author and a slideshow of him and his dog that the kids really enjoyed seeing. After we finished, I gave them the option of looking at books or exploring the word games and they split down the middle, which I think definitely goes back to what I was talking about in my last post. They enjoyed the app, partly because they love the original so much, but were just as excited to go and re-read books like Chester and Library Mouse in print.
The kids come to me in half groups, so not wanting to leave out the 4 year old contingent of that class, I showed them the app of There’s a Monster at the End of this Book from Sesame Street. This is one of my favorite silly stories of all time and worked really well with this age group. For those not familiar with this book originally published in 1971, Grover spends the story increasingly freaking out and begging the reader not to turn the page, fearing that there is a monster (himself) at the end. It’s super funny and of course the more he begs, the more you want to turn the page. As an ebook, it’s really great because it’s Grover’s voice, which is just hysterical in itself. There is also an interactive component to it, which the kids all loved. Throughout the book, he attempts to tie the pages down and nail them shut and with the iPad version when you touch the knots on the rope, for example, they break and the page turns, leading to another freak out.
I would highly recommend both of these books in print and in iPad form.