We’re all pretty picky when it comes to kids’ ebooks around here, but when you’re adapting a classic from my own childhood like Dr. Seuss, my standards skyrocket. Even so, I am wildly impressed with the brand new Cat in the Hat Read and Learn app for kids, just out this month.
Right away you’ll notice how fantastic the user experience is, with easy intuitive navigation, nice narration, animations and sound effects that aren’t too over the top, and plenty of surprises to keep kids engaged. It’s clear that the developers at Oceanhouse Media are really committed to helping kids learn to read, and all the technology used here suits that purpose. Nothing is gratuitous at all.
I love that while the narrator reads the each page to you, each word lights up to help kids with those sight words — and afterwards, you have the chance to tap your own word and hear it read. Perfect for giving early readers confidence, when they can find the word CAT or FISH or I at your suggestion.
Also fun: Tap any given illustration on the page, and you’ll learn whether it’s a fish, a cup, Sally, or the boy. (How come he never had a name, anyway?) Pretty much everything from the floor to the ceiling can be identified with a tap.
On some screens, you also have the chance to find a secret red star, which brings up a pop-up window with a mini game or quiz in it that further reinforces reading comprehension, letter recognition, rhyming, and other basic reading skills. Not only is it fun (and no awful buzzer sounds if you get the answer wrong), it’s aligned with kindergarten ELA standards so it’s definitely a great head start for kids heading off to kindergarten.
I actually tried it out with a kindergartener and she was just smitten. I will say though, sometimes the “find the secret star” feature is so fun, it can take kid out of the story and may make it a little harder for them to answer reading comprehension questions. So you might consider as you go through it, whether to direct your kids just to play around with the app and explore, or focus more specifically on the story and the words and skip some of the interactivity.
I’d also definitely recommend using it on an iPad if you have the opportunity; while the iPhone version is just fine, it can be hard even for little fingers to tap the right word in a sentence at your suggestion, which may be a little frustrating for some kids. But that’s a really minor quibble. Overall, this is a truly fantastic app that’s well worth the price when you see the encouragement and excitement it can bring to even a reluctant reader. Especially when you sit there together and go through the ebook together.
Hey, just like any book! Only with lots of funny sounds that you don’t always have to make yourself.