Monday, August 26, 2013

How Drawing Can Improve Reading Comprehension

Every teacher wants to help children to read deeply, to grasp the richness of characterisation, the devices the author uses to create mood and tension, the intent and purpose of the writer and the language devices employed. We also want them to be moved by the text and able to reflect and respond critically to it. I've written lots of posts about comprehension, but in this one I want to revisit a previously discussed strategy that I've used with children aged 3 to 12 years and which I continue to see as one of the most powerful comprehension strategies I have used.

‘Sketch to Stretch’ is essentially a strategy that involves asking children to sketch in response to reading, hearing or even viewing a story. It requires them to use drawing to 'stretch' or enhance the meaning as they are reading. You can do it during and after reading and there is even a place for drawing as an ‘advance organizer’ before reading, but that’s another post. It can involve varied directions including:

Sketch what just happened.
Sketch what he/she [insert character name] did, lost, saw, heard etc.
Sketch how this [insert and event] makes you feel.
Sketch a picture that shows what might happen next.
Sketch a picture of [insert character].

The sketches on the left are from my book 'Teaching Reading Comprehension', and show just some of the responses from a group of 10 year-old children I had been teaching as part of a research project. I had interrupted a reading of the graphic novel ‘The Wedding Ghost’ (1985) written by Leon Garfield and illustrated by Charles Keeping.

Garfield's book is set in the late 19th century, in a small village in Hertfordshire in England. Like all of Garfield’s books it is rich in historical detail and a depth of language and mastery of storytelling that few children’s authors have ever achieved. The book tells the story of a young couple (Gillian and Jack) who are about to be married. It follows the normal sequence of events for a wedding in the 19th century, beginning with the invitation, preparations, then the rehearsal, present opening, more preparations and eventually the wedding.

Much of the story centres on a journey taken by Jack after he opens an unusual gift addressed only to him. This is the first moment of intrigue. Jack sets off armed with an old map sent by an unknown person, and the events and discoveries that lead ultimately to the dramatic events of the wedding and the outcome.

On the occasion that sketches above were drawn I had introduced the book by sharing the title, showing the cover and then explaining a little about the author. I told the class that Leon Garfield usually wrote what is known as historical fiction, and that this is the writing of fictional stories that are inspired by real events, setting and characters.

I interrupted my oral reading after a few minutes at a point where Jack is to open the mysterious present. This is just a few from the start of the story and the guests are gathered around watching the groom to be. People are making jokes and speculating about the gift and why it might just have his name on it.

I asked my students to quickly sketch what the gift might be. As you can see from the sample of the sketches, the responses varied greatly and included a ghost, map (an uncanny prediction), book, hourglass (suggesting time), a genie’s lamp letter and so. The sketches offer an insight into the level and depth of children’s comprehension of this complex picture book up to this point. As well, they illustrate that they are trying to make sense of what’s going on, where the story might go next and the extent to which they are picking up on the themes in Garfield’s book. As well, they show something of their literary history and the background knowledge that they bring to the reading and the sketching.

Even when children drew the same object there was great diversity. For example, a number of students drew ghosts probably basing their prediction upon the book's title (there had been nothing explicit in the text to suggest this); and yet, the drawings showed a diverse range of ghosts. One student drew a genie type 'ghost' emerging from lamps, several drew 'Casper like' ghosts and others drew ghosts more human in form. Each reflected different literary histories and background knowledge. Where they were at the point of the sketch involved each in a different literary journey and experience of this book.

Summing up

'Sketch to Stretch' as its name implies, stretches children’s understanding, and their knowledge of and appreciation of literature. It is enhanced of course by discussion and skilful teaching, as sketches are shared and responded to by students as well as the teacher. It isn't really an easy strategy; in fact it is a very sophisticated multimodal strategy that requires reading, discussion, response, drawing and sometimes writing in association with it. It can also be used with film in a similar way to the way I used it with the 'Wedding Ghost'.

One of the strengths of Sketch to Stretch and in fact drawing generally, is that it offers an alternative to word-based strategies for heightening engagement. Each response whether it is written, spoken, drawn or displayed in any form, helps children to read more ‘deeply’. The sketches also help us to understand how our children are empathizing with characters, evaluating the text, what they are predicting will come next, how they are reflecting upon earlier events, how they are connecting with life situations and so on. This offers us greater insight into our children’s comprehension as they read and it helps us to enrich the mental journey children are making as they read a book.

Related Resources

Previous posts on 'Comprehension' (here)

'Pathways to Literacy', Trevor H. Cairney (1995). This is a book I wrote and which has more material on reading comprehension and 'Sketch to Stretch'. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

2013 Children's Book Council (Australia) Awards Announced

The Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) announced the winners of the 2013 awards yesterday in Canberra. I reviewed the full shortlist earlier in the year (here) as well as the Notable Book List that is announced each year to acknowledge at least 100 books of note. However, the winners and honour books this year were as follows.

1. 'Older Readers' category (Young Adult Readers)


'Sea Hearts' by Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)

Margo Lanagan is a multi-award winning, internationally acclaimed Australian author well known for her exciting speculative fiction. This story tells of an unremarkable young woman, Misskaella Prout who struggles to find her place in the stormy and isolated island of Rollrock. She discovers she has natural magic gifts and can use them to coax selkies (mythological creatures found in Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish folklore) out of their sealskins. Her world is changed and is the community in which she lives. One by one the local men are captivated by the allure of the beautiful sea-wife. Will all the men fall captive to her as all the 'real' women leave the community. This is a powerful story of desire and revenge, human weakness, as well as all-consuming love and even a dash of loyalty.

Honour Books

'The Ink Bridge' by Neil Grant (Allen & Unwin)

'Friday Brown' by Vikki Wakefield (Text Publishing)

2. 'Younger Readers' category (Independent Younger Readers)


'Children of the King' by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin)

This is a stunning book from a great Australian writer. Three children have been sent to live in the countryside away from war-ravaged London in WWII. Nothing unusual about this. Two children (Cecily and Jeremy) end up in a home of privilege, and an evacuee (May) from a poorer background is taken in with them. May who boldly explores the local area discovers two boys, who have strange dress and are mysterious. May and Cecily eventually confirm that there are two boys. When they find the boys the past and the present merge and transform what has been a regular tale of girls having an adventure, into one that deals with many themes, including loss of innocence, the brutality of war and its consequences.

In the midst of this Hartnett introduces and overlays the story of the Princes in the Tower drawing parallels between the story of the children with the unresolved story of the Princes. This is a superbly written and nuanced tale by a master storyteller, which is a deserving winner.
Honour books

'Pennies for Hitler' by Jackie French (Lamont Books)

'The Tender Moments of Saffron Silk' by Glenda Millard (ABC Books)

3. 'Early Childhood' category (Preschool and beginning readers)


'The Terrible Suitcase' by Emma Allen and illustrated by Freya Blackwood (Omnibus, Scholastic Press)

This delightful picture book has a story line that all children and parents will identify as true to life. Your mother buys you something, which isn’t what you wanted or expected. In this story it’s a red suitcase to take to school instead of a bright red backpack with rockets and silver zip that you just had to have! The typical child response is to be mad. There is much sulking and tantrums. But when she finally goes to school she discovers that sometimes different things can occur when you’re different. New friends, experiences and creative and imaginative fun that were as unexpected as the terrible red suitcase.

If you write a first book as Emma Allen has and have it accepted for publication, then you could only dream of being assigned an illustrator like Freya Blackwood to turn her creative genius to helping you communicate this common real life scenario with authenticity and interest. Freya has used delightful watercolour, gouache and pencil line work. Emma Allen's text is beautifully written with minimal well-chosen words that in combination with Blackwood's illustrations create a book worthy of this acknowledgement.

Honour Books

'With Nan' by Tania Cox and illustrated by Karen Blair (Windy Hollow Books)

'Too Many Elephants in This House' by Ursula Dubosarsky and illustrated by Andrew Joyner (Penguin)

4. 'Picture Books' category (Varied ages, Birth to 18 years)

'The Coat' illustrated by Ron Brooks and written by Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)

The Coat stood in a paddock at the end of a row of strawberries. It was buttoned up tight and stuffed full of straw and it was angry. 'What a waste of me!' it yelled. Then along came a man. 'I could do with a coat like that,' the man said. Together, swooping and swinging, they travelled to the Cafe Delitzia, and had the night of their lives.

What self-respecting coat would want to end up rotting away on an old scarecrow? When the coat beckons a passing stranger he sees that this might well be a great coat for him. They begin a great adventure together as they travel to a city where the man soon discovers that this coat can do more than keep him warm. Together they form a great team that makes people sit up and listen.

Sounds quirky of course, and it is. But it is also a wonderful mysterious metaphysical tale that pushes the boundaries of what is possible and what might be. There are many themes that play out in the story, not the least of which is the power of friendship, discovering things within yourself, and the development of self-belief. The combination of Julie Hunt’s well-crafted story and Ron Brooks’ genius as an illustrator helps to make this story work. Brooks has many devices including subtle use of colour that tracks the mood of the key characters, from simple black and white to rich colour as the exciting partnership between the man and the coat unfolds. By the end his use of colour is rich and flamboyant. This is a wonderful book.

The reviewer in Reading Time described the work this way:

'It is simply impossible to categorize this unique and harmonious work of art... This is book that exemplifies James Joyce’s criteria of unity, harmony and radiance. It defies the prophets of doom. Books are alive and flourishing – particularly picture books from Australia.'

Honour books

'Herman and Rosie' by Gus Gordon (Viking)

'Sophie Scott Goes South' by Alison Lester (Viking)

5. 'Eve Pownall Award for Information Books' category (Varied ages, Birth to 18 years)


'Tom the Outback Mailman' by Kristin Weidenbach and illustrated by Timothy Ide (Lothian)

'Tom the Outback Mailman' by Kristin Weidenbach and illustrated by Timothy Ide won the Eve Pownall prize for information books. This delightful true story of a great Australian character is based on Weidenbach's story of Tom Kruse who was the driver of the Marree-to-Birdsville mail. Once a fortnight for twenty years Tom loaded his Leyland Badger truck and drove 1,000 km across perilous territory on little more than a dusty dangerous rutted track. His job was to deliver mail and provisions to arguably the most isolated residents in the world. Tom was a great Australian character who lived in the middle decades of last century

The book is a version for younger children that Weidenbach has adapted into a delightful picture book for young readers. It offers just a small slice of the events of Tom's life. When floods cut the Birdsville Track, the station residents run out of supplies and worse still, the Birdsville Hotel runs out of beer! It takes Tom’s ingenuity to beat the floodwaters and get the mail and the beer through. Timothy Ide provides wonderfully detailed watercolour illustrations that add to what is already a compelling narrative account.

Honour books

'Lyrebird! A True Story' by Jackie Kerin and illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe (Museum of Victoria)

'Topsy-turvey World: How Australian Animals Puzzled Early Explorers' by Kirsty Murray (National Library of Australia)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Stories in a Box: A great strategy for all ages

Have you ever tried to clear out your shed or attic and found that a job that was to be a 2-3 hour exercise in shedding your life of junk, becomes a nostalgic walk through long forgotten objects and artefacts that were once part of your life. I find my mother's Box Brownie camera (the source of all my baby photos). The first camera given to me as a child. A tool to catch my Mum in awkward poses, my first two dogs in the back yard. Out of focus shots to be hidden away in other boxes. Out comes the first serious camera I bought. I remember its untimely 'death' in Amsterdam; the victim of just one drop of syrup from a wonderful Dutch Waffle. Objects that 'spoke' of my past, whispering and prodding forgotten memories.

Mem Fox tapped this sentiment in her wonderful book 'Wildfred, Gordon McDonald Partridge'. When Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge visits an old people's home next to his house he makes lots of friends. One of them is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper. "He called her Miss Nancy and told her all his secrets."  When his parents tell him that Miss Nancy has "...lost her memory" he sets out to discover what a memory is. His friends at the home all give different definitions - "something that makes you cry", "..something that makes you laugh", "something as precious as gold". He goes looking for Miss Nancy's memory, and along the way he collects objects that he thinks match the definition of a memory and takes them to her in a box.  When he hands them to her she begins to remember things from her past. "She put a shell to her ear and remembered going to the beach by tram long ago..", "She touched the medal and talked sadly of the brother she had loved who had gone to war and never returned". "And the two of them smiled and smiled because Miss Nancy's memory had been found again by a small boy, who wasn't very old either".

Above: Hear Mem Fox read 'Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge'

Stories in a box

Using an object or group of objects to stimulate language is not new, but some enterprising teachers from Ainslie School have used the idea to good effect. They describe the practice in 'Practically Primary' (Vol. 15, No.1, February 2010). The concept is simple and was adapted from a strategy Daniel Meadows uses to stimulate digital storytelling. As part of an annual writing festival the teachers developed 21 different boxes with carefully chosen objects. They placed 5-6 objects in a box that had some relationship to one another. The only exception was the inclusion sometimes of a single object that was unrelated, to allow additional creativity to be used.

The objects in one box consisted of:
A set of WWII medals
Photo of an Australian soldier
Photo of a family standing around an old man
A WWII photo of a soldier in Egypt
Epaulets showing the rank of lieutenant
A small decorated hand fan from the 1940s
The boxes were used in varied ways by different groups of children but many poems, stories, books and digital stories were produced that had their 'seeds' in the items from the class story box. 

How might the Story in a Box strategy be used?

Obviously the idea has many applications at all ages. The teacher or parent would need to model the process of story creation before asking children to do it.  They might also jointly construct a story or two with children before letting them do it independently. With that proviso, here are just some of the ways I'd suggest you might use the strategy:

1. A group of 5 year-olds might explore the objects in a box and try to tell a joint story or simply take turns creating individual stories. You could allow them to supplement the box with a dress-up box if there is a need for children to become specific characters or take on roles.

2. A group of 6-12 year old children might discuss the objects and then prepare a joint monologue to be presented to others (with the objects used as artefacts or aids). Alternatively, a group story or picture book could be produced based on the objects.

3. The box of objects might simply be used to create a digital story (individually or in groups). Have a look at Daniel Meadows' 'Scissors' video to see what might be produced, as wells as my previous post on digital storytelling (here). This approach could also be used with high school children.

What is the value of this simple strategy?

There are many potential benefits of the strategy:
  • It encourages creative storytelling.
  • It offers a way for a group of children to create something together, allowing collaboration skills to develop, leading to joint learning, stretching each other, firing their collective imaginations.
  • It offers an authentic and powerful way to generate stories in digital, print or oral form.
  • This is a strategy that can encourage divergent thinking as the learner is required to generate ideas, connections and storytelling solutions.
  • It works well with children of varied abilities including learners who lack fluency in language and others who are gifted speakers and writers. You can even mix children of varied abilities. 
Related Posts

All my posts on creativity (HERE)
'Digital Storytelling' (HERE)
Posts on writing (HERE)

# This is a revised version of a post I wrote in January 2011

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

12 Great Interactive Story Apps

It seems a long time since I have reviewed some story apps. You can look at my entire app reviews HERE. In this post I want to review 12 story apps published in recent months. As in my other app reviews, I have used a rating scale that attributes a score from 1 (Poor) to 10 (Outstanding) to indicate the extent to which the app meets the following criteria:
  • The app is enjoyable to use
  • Children learn new things because of the app
  • The app makes it easier for children to learn
  • The app interactive elements don't distract from the key learning goals
  • The app is well designed, attractive and engaging
  • The app represents good value for money
1. 'Dr Seuss Short Story Collection' (Oceanhouse Media)

Dr Seuss's Short Story Collection contains eight classic titles all in one electronic book app (what Oceanhouse Media calls an 'omBook'). The format for the app is consistent with most Oceanhouse story apps. The reader can choose to read it themselves, be read to or record their won version of the reading. Pages swipe easily and the narration is a lively male reading in an American accent. The text is highlighted as it is read (word-by-word) and the reader can touch illustrations which are then named.

The eight separate stories are available from the apps 'home' where your bookcase displays the books in the collection. The stories of course are by Dr Seuss which makes them good value at $10.49 for eight stories. As I've said before in my reviews, I find the Oceanhouse template that is used in slightly varied forms for their children's books to be a little 'wooden' and lacking in interactive elements that engage the reader and support the magic of the Dr Seuss texts.  Having said this, children will enjoy some of the classic stories within the collection, including 'I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today', 'The Glunk that Got Thunk', 'Zax' and 'Too Many Daves'. Brilliant stuff from Dr Seuss.

My rating of this app is 7

2. 'Storybook Maker' (Merge Mobile)

This is a story app that allows children to make stories for others to enjoy. It allows children to create, share, and read storybooks on the iPad using a basic word processing app that has great and easy links to images, audio (for narration), music, hand drawn original artwork and a wide range of stickers that they can add. You can create new books with the touch of a single button. You are prompted for a title, options are given for a cover and then you are guided through the formatting of your story. As you move from page to page the previous page is automatically saved.

A variety of templates are also provided with different layouts. You can use blank pages to create your own layout or use one of the twelve pre-designed options. This is very easy app to use. If you're using an iPad you can take photos and instantly save them to your book. The use of text boxes, resizing, and layout are all very easy with pinch and stretch options using simple swipes of the screen. The app also offers the very cute use of “physics” objects that include a bouncing ball and a little dune buggy that can be dragged around the page.

The stories that children create are stored in 'My Library' that allows them to easily read, edit and share their work. Files can also be shared by email as a pdf (automatically generated) or via the web as a public document.

Interestingly, the app has no audio instructions, with all instructions written, using a combination of words, images and icons. However, even very young readers will handle the app easily. At $4.49 this app is very good value, I love it and can see many individuals and classes having great fun with it.

My rating of this app is 9

3. 'Little Critter Collection 1' and 'Little Critter Collection 2' by Mercer Myer (Oceanhouse)

There are two 'Little Critter Collections' available written by the legendary author Mercer Myer. Each has ten short stories that are suited to younger readers (aged 3-6 years).  The ten short stories in the second collection include 'Just Go to Bed', 'Just Going to the Dentist', 'Just Granpa and Me', 'What a Bad Dream' and 'Just me and My Cousin'. At $15.99 for the set they represent good value.

Like the Dr Seuss short story collection (reviewed above) the books have simple interactive elements, text highlighting and all illustrations are labelled. Touch the image and they are named for the reader, supporting basic word recognition.

The app also has the option to record your own narration which I'd prefer. You can also turn off the sound effects and interactivity if you want, which I think I'd be tempted to do for most readers who want to enjoy the story not do word recognition by tapping the pictures.

My rating of this app is 7

4. 'The Grunts: Beard of Bees' by Philip Ardagh and illustrated by Axel Schefler (Nosy Crow)

This free game is a clever marketing strategy for Philip Ardagh's 'Grunts' books that are illustrated by Axel Schefler. The app itself is a lot of silly fun, with the player trying desperately to give Mr Grunt a beard made from bees. This scenario of course is one of the events from the first electronic title in the series, 'The Grunts in Trouble'. This is the outrageous story of Mr and Mrs Grunt and their son, Sunny. Of course, Sunny isn’t really their son, as they stole him off a washing line when he was a baby. The story follows their adventures in a badly homemade caravan, drawn by Clip and Clop (donkeys) and their encounter with a household of disgruntled servants from nearby Bigg House, as well as a swarm of angry bees and assorted mischief along the way.

The second title just released is 'The Grunts all at Sea' with other titles to appear soon.  In the second book Mr Grunt is a man with a mission. He has to get a Person of Great Importance (or POGI) to someone called Mrs Bayliss by the twenty-fifth. Alive and well of course. And he can't tell anyone more than that, not even his lovely wife, because there will be people trying to snatch the POGI and so the POGI must be transported in secret. It's an exciting adventure. You're right, it sounds like a lot of fun. If your children like the best (most outrageous?) of Roald Dahl's tales then they will like these stories.

The books are over 200 pages long (with illustrations) and will suit readers aged 7-11 years. I have to say that the complex interface between free app, iTunes and the Nosy Crow website is clunky and I wonder why the publisher doesn't just sell the books via iTunes.

My rating of this app is 7.5

5. 'Grendel's Great Escape' (HD) by Michelle Anaya and illustrated by Kenny DeWitt

This is an interactive story about a boy named Martin and his pet ferret Grendel.  The story takes us along with Martin and his pet on a show and tell day adventure. We can help Martin find his favourite Monster Tee, tackle the laundry monster, catch his ferret and get to school on time. The app allows the reader to join Martin in his race against time to find Grendel while avoiding the grizzly school Principal.

This simple app is filled with over 50 interactive elements and animations that are of high quality. It also has the usual read to me and read by myself options.  One thing it doesn't have (that will please parents and teachers) is any external links to other sites and products. The app is great value at just $2.99.

My rating of this app is 8

6. 'The Berenstain Bears and the Trouble with Chores' by Stan and Jan Berenstain (Oceanhouse Media)

I just love the Berenstain Bears and so do most children aged 4-7 years. In this story a crisis occurs within the Bear family because Papa Bear and the cubs seem to avoid all the normal chores around the house. Mama Bear decides that two can play at this game and so stops doing them as well. The consequences are a disaster and of course something must change. Guess who has to change?!

The illustrations and text are delightful and will engage younger readers. The story has the Berenstain charm and magic. The app is available for $3.99 US.

My rating of this app is 8

7. 'A Shiver of Sharks' by Judy Hedlund (Little Bahalia Publishing)

This HD app is a sequel to 'A Troop is a Group of Monkeys' and was written by Judy Hedlund and illustrated by Pamela Baron. It is all about the creatures of the sea. It has good animation and lots of interactive elements. The text on each page is simple and highlights a single creature, a creative collective noun and a simple statement for each. Each has related and appropriate sound and animation. For example:

'A cast of crabs scuttles sideways at sea'
'A screech of gulls snatches picnic debris'
'A risk of lobsters cuts food with sharp claws'
'A battery of barracudas hunts a school of small fish'

The animations work as you touch the screen and the audio offers complementary sounds. For example, the page with the cast of crabs has the sound of waves washing the shore, and the barracudas make snapping noises (and open their mouths) when you touch them. The app is in high definition but most people won't see much difference in quality compared to SD apps.

I love this app and at $3.99 give it a high recommendation.

My rating of the app is 9

8. 'Meet the Insects: Water and Grass Edition' (NCSOFT)

This is the 3rd and latest app from NCSOFT in a series about insects (previous apps were 'Forest Edition' and the 'Village Edition'). It is an app that children interested in natural history will love. It presents a huge amount of knowledge about insects using varied written texts, images, videos, animations, interactive stories and a wonderful observation manual. It is a large app at over 500 MB but I wouldn't allow this to put you off.

The app is easy to use with the home screen offering a comprehensive set of options to sample multimedia, the journal, a quiz, or just explore insects. The observation journal is a fantastic aid. It offers the user a page for every day, with the options to add titles, weather conditions, photos, where it was spotted etc. It would work well for individuals, a class or even a family.

This will be a great app for classroom teachers to use as part of natural science or will be a very popular app with children who love the natural world.

The app has two quizzes that children will enjoy completing, although they are quite simple and won't test children with a good knowledge of science.

My rating of the app is 9

9. 'The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins' by Dr Seuss (Oceanhouse Media)

'The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins' is one of my favourite Dr Seuss books. It is essentially the tale of a boy who when he needs to take his hat off to honour the king - who is passing by - finds that there are 499 other hats under his first hat. Taking off the hat doesn't prove to be easy!

King Derwin demands "hats off to the King", but poor Bartholomew can't manage it. He is taken to the royal throne room and brought before the King's magicians to solve the problem.

A wonderful Dr Seuss title that children aged 4-8 will enjoy. It is priced at $5.49 US.

My rating of the app is 7.5

10. 'Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really BIG Adventure' written and illustrated by Kristina Stephenson (KIWA Media)

This wonderful story app is a delightful story about courageous Sir Charlie Stinky Socks who sets out on a BIG Adventure. With his trusty grey mare and Envelope the cat, Sir Charlie and the reader can explore the deep dark forest, hear the monstrous trees groan, terrible beasts moaning and wiggly woos that cannot wait to tickle your toes. Sir Charlie doesn't flinch when he meets the beasties, or the dragon, or the wily witch, but when he comes across the princess, he realises he's met his match! As you read the app you are part of the trials of Sir Charlie defying the drooling monsters and the fire-breathing dragon to save the day. This is an innocent tale of a boy who wants adventure and finds it to be surprising and not quite he was expecting.

The app makes excellent use of sound and numerous animation features that allow readers to touch, drag and shake the iPad. These features will keep children coming back to the app (but they aren't the main game), but hopefully the wonderful images and interesting text will keep them there.  It has other features such as the option to colour in outline versions of images and children can record themselves reading the story. One feature that I like a lot is that the option to touch the text and hear it has a word by word option (which I've criticized in the past) and the ability to hear phrases, lines and sentences with a swipe of the text. This is a great feature and encourages the use of context, meaning and syntax.

This app was winner of the Practical Pre-School Bronze medal and shortlisted for the Red House Children’s Book award. It sells for $5.49 and is suitable for children aged 3-6 years.

My rating of the app is 9
11. 'I Love My Dad' by Anna Walker (Snappyant)

This is a lightly animated and interactive app based on the popular children's book, 'I Love My Dad' (published in 2009 by Scholastic Press). It was written by Australian author and illustrator Anna Walker. Anna works with ink, pencil and collage to create her beautiful images. It is a delightful story with great sound effects. The story is simple but beautifully written.

 The story is centred on Ollie, a gorgeous lively Zebra and Fred the dog. The central character (and narrator) of the story loves his Dad. The language use is so authentic, every word is well chosen, and the actual reader on the app has a delightful and appropriate male voice. As we read along, we go with Ollie as he plays and enjoys a fun day with his Dad. And as we do so, we can touch the characters on every page and make them move along with the narrative. We can make Ollie ride his bike, help him to swing in the tree, paint the fence, go down the slide and we can even move the playground equipment. But soon it is time for bed and Dad falls asleep reading to Ollie. This is a beautiful bedtime story that all children aged 2-5 years will love. It sells for $4.49. 

My rating of the app is 9.5

12. 'McElligot's Pool' by Dr Seuss (Oceanhouse Media)

Marco casts his fishing line into McElligot's pool and wonders what sea creatures might bight if this pool is connected (perhaps) to an underground river that starts at the pool and flows to distant places.  Might some strange and wonderful fish be on their way to his hook this very moment? He wonders, "Will I catch a fish with a pinwheel-like tail! I might catch a fish who has fins like a snail!" His over-active imagination takes him through a world of possibilities, as he considers wild creatures with unusual habits! The book has the typical Oceanhouse features. Switch off the word recognition facility of it is a distraction so that your readers can just enjoy the wonderful Seuss story. It is available for $4.99 US. Readers aged 4-10 will enjoy this book.

My rating of the app is 7