Summer is over and school is back in session, but that does not mean that our iPads and smart phones cannot be used as educational tools to assist our children as they stretch their minds. So here are a few storybook apps that can assist your kids (and even us parents) in learning to tell time, master Chinese, and learn about perseverance through muffins. Yes, muffins.
Numbers and time go hand in hand in Shape Up Number Town, by Jane Hague. It is one of a series of 10 stories that take place in Number Town, each highlighting a different Number Town resident. Shape Up Number Town features Sally Seven the Sports Star as she tries to encourage the people of Number Town to be more active. Laced throughout the story are references to numbers and time and a clock is featured in the corner of many of the illustrations. Children can tap the clock to hear the time repeated. At the end of the story, there is also a practice clock to help reinforce telling time. Another bit of fun are the hidden numbers on each of the illustrations waiting to be discovered. My daughter and I both enjoyed reading the story while she practiced telling time and we look forward to seeing more titles from the Number Town series. Number Town stories are available on iTunes and for Android phones.
With a whole slew of storybooks in English on our bookshelves, I’m always keeping an eye out for decent storybooks in Chinese. That was even truer with our storybook apps until I stumbled upon the app developer Rye Studio. The good people at Rye have taken stories and retold them in multiple languages with an interface that even allows for the stories to be read in one language while you follow along with the text in another (options even include traditional Chinese characters, pinyin, or pinyin with the tones written as numbers). Best of all, they have dozens of book titles and several are available to download free and give a test drive. Our current favorite is Little Snail, which is about (you guessed it) a little snail as it learns how special he and his shell are. Besides English and Chinese, Little Snail is narrated in Japanese, German, French, and Spanish; kudos to Rye for also getting native readers in each language. Linguistically, it is the most versatile storybook I have seen yet. Little Snail is available for free on iTunes and for Android phones.
Finally comes a tale about the delicious benefit of not giving up, especially when it comes to finding the perfect muffin, in the real life-inspired story of Maid Marian Muffins by Jamie & Jessica Vander Salm. In this story, that any muffin lover can relate too, Maid Marian and her trusty dog, Marvin, search the city of New York on an epic quest to find a “good old-fashioned blueberry muffin.” Living in Beijing, I think we can relate to Maid Marian’s pain. The story follows their search throughout the city until they realize they will have to make the muffins themselves. Maid Marian Muffins has a nice bit of theme music, an enthusiastic narrator, and a story that will leave kids respecting the perseverance of Maid Marian. It will also likely create a need for baking your own blueberry muffins. This was my daughter’s favorite storybook app over the summer, so you know it must be good. Maid Marian Muffins is available on iTunes.