Fun eReader®

Fun eReader®
Grade: K-Gr 2Cost $500/year for unlimited use, $2,250 for lifetime use. Organizations can also purchase by title or by set.Usability When students first log in, they see a rotating collection of children's illustrations. Once they click the image, they land on a main screen with a navigation bar to the left of an array of colorful book covers. The links labeled "eBooks" and "Book Homepages" appear, at first glance, to yield identical results. The latter, however, brings students to a page containing bibliographic information, links to teacher resources, and author/illustrator interviews. The covers displayed under "eBooks" brings kids to the interactive title. First-time users may find the visual similarity of these menus confusing.Ebooks are organized in two categories: "New Releases" and "Additional Titles." Unfortunately, lumping together all genres, topics, and age groups on a single page doesn't give students the opportunity to effectively consider books by subject. A small blue drop-down menu offers more sophisticated ways to sort the offerings, but it's easily missed.Ease of usability improves once students select a title. Children can click through page by page on their own or choose a reading speed and be read to. Books are available in either English or Spanish. The Word Highlighting feature further supports decoding and comprehension skills.At the end of each book, children can take quizzes or look at additional resources. However, the menu that contains these options only appears when the cursor is at a certain place on the bottom of the screen.Moving from one ebook to another is problematic. Young readers will have to hunt and skip around a great deal before they can find a way to exit a book and choose another, by using the discreet "Home" symbol.Visual Appeal The graphic design of these books is uneven. Suzanne Slade's Animals Are Sleeping is one of the stronger titles, with dreamlike lush pastel drawings of slumbering animals that will have children lingering over the details.However, others, such as Jennifer Keats Curtis's Salamander Season, are less polished. This book mixes photographs and illustrations awkwardly; photos seem haphazardly glued onto the screen. This collage style might flow on the page, but it appears static online. The tight, small blocks of text are also difficult to read, especially for new readers.Curtis's Animal Helpers: Aquariums features dynamic photos of fish, but some are a bit too small. Images that are powerful enough to dominate a page often appear framed or with a montage of others photos, which takes away from their impact.Content & Intended Audience The content is solid and thoroughly researched. Marianne Berkes's Animalogy features some excellent extras, including animal classification charts and other well-designed graphs that help readers understand concepts such as warm- vs. cold blooded and vertebrate vs. invertebrates. Although the content is likely richly rewarding in print form, the online format makes it difficult to access. There is no way to click or zoom in on any of these detailed charts, for example.Although the publishers list the intended audience as grades one through six, the materials here are most appropriate for the youngest of readers. There are more books labeled for third and fourth graders than any other age group, but the content is far too simple for kids this age. Katherine Hall's Clouds, for instance, is listed as a fourth-grade book but contains almost no actual scientific information and seems better suited for preschoolers or kindergarteners ("Sometimes clouds fill the sky/but other times there are no clouds in the sky.").The creators of this program seem out of sync with school curricula, and although lively nonfiction fits in with the Common Core's goals, the lack of age appropriateness is a problem.Resources for Teachers Most books contain teaching guides that include creative, thoughtful, and well-organized resources, such as writing prompts and lists of activities. These materials are remarkable in their depth and breadth. However, the layout is lacking, with single-spaced pages and a mix of black and red font.Verdict Many of the books here are strong print resources but not all of them make a seamless translation to the digital format. Confusing navigation may make access challenging to the intended audience: the very young.

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