November 24, 2017

The Advocate's Toolbox

Dr. Seuss in a New, Digital “Read & Learn” Series | Touch and Go

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AppRev_DG_Suess_fullOceanhouse Media has released 50-plus Dr. Seuss apps to date from The Lorax to Oh, the Places You Will Go. Their latest productions are enhanced editions of the previously released classic Seuss stories, The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. The new apps come under the banner of the “Read & Learn!” series. The first two series offerings are reviewed below.

When do you take an already successful app and improve upon it? And from a consumer’s point of view: does the new product warrant replacing a perfectly readable book or functioning program? Oceanhouse Media’s Dr. Seuss apps have been praised for their outstanding narrations and clean design. While these apps are interactive, movement and viewer action within each (eliciting narration, word labels, and sound effects) is limited. For some children this means fewer return visits.

The new “Read & Learn” versions of Seuss’s classic The Cat in the Hat (iOS $4.99) and Green Eggs and Ham (iOS $4.99; both PreS-1) add both educational value and interactivity to the original digital productions, providing a much more engaging experience for beginning readers. As in the earlier iterations, words are highlighted as they are read, but from the start, the apps prompt viewers to find hidden surprises on the screens and to move characters about. A word label appears for most items when tapped, and, for example, in The Cat in the Hat, the fish might also jump out of its bowl, or Thing 1 and Thing 2 might leap across the page. When readers find the hidden star on each page, they can open a learning activity (dozens per app) that targets early literacy skills. While letter sounds are not a focus, letter name identification, rhyming, sight word spelling (fan, pot, etc.), and story comprehension are emphasized. Verbal instructions and prompts are given for the activities (drag letters, draw lines between words that rhyme words, etc.). Quality narrations and exuberant sound effects remain as hallmarks.

Navigation is easy. Through the settings screen, readers can choose either a “Read to Me” or a “Read it Myself” mode, as well as switch enhancements on or off—an important control for readers who require (or desire) less sensory input. Additional information and control is located behind a parent gate, including the ability to track reading stats (minutes read, pages read, and book read). Teachers will especially appreciate being able to reset hints, learning activities, and the statistics.

Dr. Seuss’s stories have been animated and reinterpreted many times. With these book apps the developer has taken great care to stay faithful to Seuss’s original artwork. Objects and characters move as cut-out animation, keeping the association to the original intact while adding motion that suits the whimsical tone of Seuss’s stories. The two apps may also be purchased as a bundle (iOS, $7.99).—Mary Ann Scheuer, Berkeley Unified School District and Great Kid Books

For more app reviews, visit School Library Journal‘s dedicated app page.

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Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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