Oceanhouse Media President Michel Kripalani was honored to attend the San Diego Business Journal‘s inaugural Innovation Awards after being selected as a finalist in the mobile devices category. The Innovation Awards acknowledge local organizations who stretch the boundaries and demonstrate how innovative spirit drives economic value.
We’re grateful to have been a finalist and were excited to hear all about the activities of other San Diego companies. A big thanks to the San Diego Business Journal for putting on a great event. We certainly saw that innovation is thriving in San Diego!
This article is reposted with permission from The Digital Media Diet, the blog for Digital-Storytime.com, featuring articles about kids, technology and the digital publishing industry sprouting up around digital children’s books.
Dr. Seuss was right. Reading opens up our minds to new experiences and knowledge. For children, it can be a magical time. Today’s story telling has taken on a new dimension with the introduction of books on digital devices. Kids can now interact with stories, touching the screen and exploring the different features a particular book app has to offer.
If you have a reluctant reader, encouraging them to read can be a bit of a challenge. So can finding the right level of interactivity in children’s book apps so that it doesn’t distract from the reading experience. Parents, myself included, want to have their child immersed in the story for the right reasons.
There are added benefits to reading on a digital device. Interactivity, when used the right way, can be helpful for a number of kids, from beginning and reluctant readers to English language learners. For instance, if a child is stuck on a word, they can tap the screen and have the word repeated until they are able to pronounce it.
So how do we encourage kids to read in the digital age? Creating good literacy habits starts young and to ensure that children have a wonderful reading experience, here are 10 helpful tips on keeping reading fun and educational in the digital medium.
Simple navigation. Select apps that are easy to use to ensure an enjoyable reading experience. Avoid apps that have complex navigation or numerous features and instructions that may frustrate young kids.
Co-Reading. Parent and child interaction is key, as was recently noted in a Joan Ganz Cooney Center Study on print books vs. e-books. It’s best to have parents by their kid’s side when reading on device. Ask your child questions about what is happening in the story and encourage them to be playful and explore during reading time.
Limit “bells and whistles.” Keep interactivity to a minimum. Look for book apps that maintain the integrity of the story and create a reading experience that most closely resembles reading stories in a traditional book format. Stay away from titles that embed superfluous puzzles and games if they distract from the story and hinder reading comprehension. When selecting a book app, ask yourself if the features in the app are there to enhance the literacy aspect of the title. Avoid interactive features that take your child out of the narrative and off of the page to interact.
Reading options. Look for apps that include different reading modes which lets your child choose how they’d like to read the story. In addition to reading with their parents, can your child have the option to have the story read to them by a narrator or choose to read it on their own? Key features to look for in book apps for emergent readers include picture/word association, word highlighting and the ability to touch an individual word and hear it pronounced.
Make it a ritual. Set aside a special time to read together (i.e. before naptime). Turn off the T.V. and phone and dedicate the time to reading only. Establishing a routine sends a message to your child that reading is important.
Build on interests. Look for topics that are interesting to your child when selecting book apps. For example, focus on activities or hobbies that are most appealing to your child in order to find stories that will appeal them. From sports and dancing to animals and science, there’s an app for that.
Remember to have fun! Encourage your child to be inquisitive while reading, taking advantage of the touchscreen technology and the added benefits of digital reading. Taking turns reading the story aloud and acting out the different characters can make reading that more fun, especially for a reluctant reader.
Model good reading habits. Have your child see you use your digital device to read as well. You’re your child’s best role model. Take time out of each day to show your child that you enjoy reading too. Tell them what you like to read.
Look for the classics. Check out beloved stories that have been teaching kids to read for decades. Is there a story you enjoyed reading as a child? Chances are there’s an app for that now. You’ll have a great time revisiting your childhood favorite stories while introducing the digital versions to your child.
Build your digital library together. Involve your child in selecting which book apps to load on their device. To guide you through this process, take a look at resources such as Digital Storytime, KinderTown, Moms With Apps, Common Sense Media, Children’s Technology Review, Parents’ Choice and Kirkus Reviews for their recommendations. These resources can help guide you to age-appropriate reading material. You can also visit your local library and see what tablets they have available preloaded with recommended age-appropriate book apps for your child.
With more than 650,000 apps on the App Store and 500,000 on the Android Market, there is no shortage of book apps available for children. Feed your kids a good diet of the right book apps and they’ll be inspired to be lifelong readers in the digital age.
With the release of our latest Little Critter omBook this week (Just a Mess), we’d like to introduce you to one of our biggest Little Critter fans — four-year-old Asena from San Diego, California.
Asena adores the Little Critter character — and is learning to do things all by herself just like Little Critter.
Amy, Asena’s mom, describes her daughter as a very unique “little critter.” She likes to pick out her own clothes and dress herself in all different colors (sometimes getting a little mad when she can’t wear what she wants). She loves to play outside, climbing trees and rocks with her two-year-old sister, Sylvia. She also likes to cook, play with her dog, Anu, and has a vivid imagination, often playing a variety of make-believe roles with her little sister.
What she isn’t fond of is making her own bed, but with a little encouragement from her mom (and the Little Critter stories), she’s learning to do this all by herself.
Asena also enjoys reading on her iPad. She has several omBooks, but Little Critter are her all-time favorites. She is a fan of the entire collection and especially likes All By Myself.
Four-year-old Asena reading along with her Little Critter omBook, When I Get Bigger.
“She reads along with the omBooks and enjoys the interactive features, such as tapping on the words and pictures,” says Amy. “She also likes to spell out the words verbally.”
The Little Critter omBooks are often the first thing Asena asks for in the morning.
“I think the stories relate to her life right now,” Amy adds. “The apps are easy enough to use and are helping her learn to read too.”
As Asena gets ready for kindergarten in the fall, we hope the life lessons found in these stories will help her on her new journey ahead. Go Asena!
Oceanhouse Media was happy to recently hear from educator Richard Colosi, a first-grade teacher from Canandaigua, New York, who is using Dr. Seuss omBooks in his classroom to practice reading fluency.
Colosi’s students are echo reading with iPads. What is echo reading? As first-graders Emily and Molly will tell you in the video below, “it’s where a student listens to a narrator reading the text and then tracks the print with their eyes, then they echo, or imitate the reader.” Check out the students echo reading with the Green Eggs and Ham and The Cat in the Hat omBooks (and their wonderful reporting skills!):
According to Colosi, echo reading is a beneficial activity for his students because they develop a metacognitive ability with reading as they begin to hear how a fluent reader reads. This has been helpful getting students to move from reading word-by-word and into fluent phrases. He adds that fluency is important because the more fluent a student reads, the better they will be able to comprehend information in the text.
Since getting iPad devices in the classroom, Colosi says he’s enjoyed enhancing his reading curriculum with the different Dr. Seuss omBooks.
“One of the first apps that I used in the classroom was The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss,” says Colosi. “The students in my classroom loved this story and when I saw that app, I knew that it would be engaging for them. Students in my class commented that they liked the ability to touch words on the page and to watch the animation on the page which zooms in and out.”
Colosi feels that the omBooks are extremely user-friendly and has seen his students easily navigating through the stories.
“What I really like are the different options available in the book apps that allow for differentiation of instruction,” says Colosi. “In my class, students who are just learning to read can explore the books using the “Read to Me” option to repeat the narration. This helps them build their word recognition and fluency skills. Students who have started to read independently can use the “Read it Myself” option. What’s nice about this option is that if a student doesn’t know a word or phrase, they can just touch to hear it. They can also attempt to read the page and then listen to the narration to make sure they read it correctly. This allows for even more independence and helps to eliminate the situations of students getting “stuck” on a word or missing key information.”
Even though his students had previously read these Dr. Seuss stories, Colosi adds that they enjoyed reading them again on the iPad and trying to sound like the narrator in the story. Plus, they particularly liked the enhancements such as the movements on the page and the sound effects.
Thanks Mr. Colosi and your first-grade class for sharing your video and story with us. It’s wonderful to see first-hand your students practicing reading fluency and having fun as they’re learning! For information on Richard Colosi, visit his website at http://www.richardcolosi.com.
For more ideas on how omBooks can be used in the classroom, visit the Educators section on the Oceanhouse Media website for teacher’s guides that you can download for free.
Have a story you’d like to share with us? Feel free to leave a comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
Plus, check out our new Educators section of our website, an exciting resource for teachers, parents and home-schoolers. This section offers fun ideas to help you get the most out of your omBooks, including our Smithsonian collection. You’ll find downloadable teacher’s guides with discussion questions, classroom activities, extended learning projects and tech tips. Try them out, then share your feedback on the new education tab on our Facebook page!
In addition, we’re saying thank you to teachers with a special sweepstakes just for them. Teachers are encouraged to visit our Facebook page and enter to win a 10-pack of the Oceanhouse Media apps of their choice (for Apple devices only). Three winners will be chosen on May 31st. Spread the word to the teachers in your life!
Are you a teacher that is using iPads in the classroom? We’d love to hear your story! Please leave your comments below or send us an email at email@example.com.
April is National Autism Awareness Month. We at Oceanhouse Media often hear from parents who have children with autism. Below is a heartwarming story and photos from one of our young readers that we wanted to share with you this month.
It’s Sunday morning and for seven-year-old Sam, that means it’s his time to enjoy reading on his iPad. Three of his favorite book apps are The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Backand Green Eggs and Ham. He sits on the couch snuggled next to his parents wearing his headphones as he ritualistically reads his omBooks (Oceanhouse Media digital books). It can take him well over an hour to finish all three because he reads them in such detail. For Sam, the Dr. Seuss omBooks and their narrators are synonymous with the iPad.
Sam has high functioning autism. His mom, Erika, says the iPad combined with the Dr. Seuss omBooks help him cope with long trips in the car, and with stressful environments such as airplanes that used to be much scarier for him.
“Sam has been reading since he was three,” says Erika. “Because he’s autistic and thus perceives the world as such a loud, bright, and overwhelming place, he finds order and repetition soothing, so he has focused on letters since before he was 18 months old. He can trust letters. The omBooks have enchanted Sam and taught him to be more imaginative as he reads his other books.”
Sam reading on a hotel room bed. “It was raining and there was nothing to do,” says his mom, Erika. “Thank goodness for Dr. Seuss on the iPad.”
Erika says Sam was so enchanted by the narration in The Cat in the Hat omBook that he asked, “Is the man reading The Cat in the Hat real?” When he found out it was voice actor Joseph Narducci, Sam wrote a fan letter to Joseph (“Dear Josif your voice is awsome love Sam”). Subsequently, Sam wrote fan letters to the narrators of The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and Green Eggs and Ham omBooks.
In addition to the narration, Sam enjoys the background music and tapping features in each omBook. He knows the nuances of his omBooks so well that he is especially tickled whenever he discovers a tiny detail that he hadn’t noticed before, for instance, a new item to tap, such as “Porthole!” when the train crashes onto the boat in Green Eggs and Ham.
“Sam ‘plays iPad’ by tapping and naming things in his environment,” said Erika. “He also has a rhythmic routine for making the omBooks pause and resume as he is reading them. ‘Resume’ has now entered his vocabulary. If he is not playing with a toy right now, it is ‘resuming’.”
Sam’s reproduction of the Green Eggs and Ham font, inspired by the omBook and the original print version.
Sam’s creativity doesn’t stop there. He’s quite interested in fonts (see picture above) and has also memorized all three of his Dr. Seuss omBooks. He’ll put on costumes, grab his stuffed animals (and parents) and act the books out.
“Sam’s love for The Cat in the Hat, nurtured by his omBook, inspired our Halloween costume a year ago when he was 6,” Erika adds. “He told me he wanted to be Thing One. I was thrilled because in previous years he didn’t have enough language skills to comprehend the nature of Halloween. When I asked if Daddy and I should be the fish and the Cat in the Hat or Sally and Nick, he replied ‘No, you should be Thing Two and Thing Three.’ ”
After all, Erika says, if there are Little Cats A through Z, why not Things One through who-knows-how-many?
Sam (Thing One), Todd (Thing Two) and Erika (Thing Three) enjoying Halloween.
Thanks Sam and Erika for kindly sharing your story with us. Families such as yours encourage our team to continue developing apps that uplift, educate and inspire. And thank you Dr. Seuss for still inspiring young minds with your brilliant stories and illustrations.
Have a story you’d like to share with us? Feel free to leave a comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear from you!
Read Across America is going GREEN this year with reading events across the country based on Dr. Seuss’s children’s story, The Lorax. Explore The Lorax Project for information about being friendly to the environment. Plus, read the story for yourself in The Lorax omBook (0.99 USD) and help regrow the world’s Truffula Tree forests with the Lorax Garden game for Apple devices (FREE until March 8!)
App Friday with Moms With Apps:
We’re kicking off the birthday sale by hosting the Moms With Apps weekly app party on our Facebook page Friday, March 2nd at 10am PST. Please join us for special news, discounts and freebies from this fantastic group of family friendly app developers . . . you’ll be glad you did! And stay tuned all week for more Dr. Seuss celebrations on Facebook!
For the folks down under, our friends at Treasure Kai will be hosting the App Friday kickoff party on their Facebook page from 8am – 9am Sydney time.
“Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than YOU!” – Dr. Seuss
The exciting Dr. Seuss Musical Instrument Game is now FREE on the App Store! Jam along with playful Seussian melodies or create your own whimsical masterpiece with this fun, vibrant, energetic musical instrument that all ages will enjoy! As you play, you can unlock new instruments, silly effects and catchy songs. Contains over 120 combinations of sounds, so you’ll always have something new to discover!
“Frank wasn’t satisfied doing ordinary frog things. He wanted to to fly. But he was a frog. And frogs can’t fly”
Our little green hero encourages us to be fearless and to follow our dreams in his new omBook, A Frog Thing. While Frank was busy hopping his way onto mobile devices this week, we sat down with Kidwick author, Eric Drachman for a little Q&A session.
1. What inspired you to become a writer?
I needed a holiday present for my niece and nephew. First I created some very rough books-on-tape based on already published books. These were just personal presents, but the kids loved them and over a few years, those projects evolved into fully edited books-on-CD complete with sound effects and audible page turns with my niece and nephew playing the kids’ roles. A lot of people who heard them wanted to buy them, but these were not my books, so I decided to write my own… and found that it was something that came naturally.
2. Where did you get the idea for A Frog Thing?
The genesis for this story was kind of roundabout… I was spending some time in The Hudson Valley in New York. At the time, I was into radio controlled model planes, so I couldn’t resist visiting the aerodrome, where I could see vintage planes up close and in the sky. I even went for a flight in an open cockpit biplane! When I told the people who ran the aerodrome that I was writing children’s books, they suggested I write one about the history of flying that they could sell in their bookstore. I liked using animal characters in my stories and was drawn to alliteration, so I came up with the idea of a flying frog. At first, Frank was going to try every means he could think of to fly, mirroring the path of mankind, in our pursuit of flight. However, when I really got into the story, I just preferred a small personal story about a frog who really really wanted to fly…and the birds who helped him.
3. What message do you hope children will take away from Kidwick Books?
Rather than explaining to kids what the “message” is, I like to let them come up with it on their own. First of all, they’ll surprise you with how sharp they are − culling the message is, after all, their job in life. Second, the message that they take from it might be different (and more appropriate) than the one that immediately jumped to your mind. In my experience, the message we take seems to be the one that we need to hear. So, while it’s important for a children’s book author to be clear about the characters’ motivations and impediments to getting what they want, I say, let’s ask kids what their take away is rather than telling them.
That said, I would like my books to inspire kids to play and believe in themselves. It takes a great deal of self-esteem to do all of that. By inhibiting these traits (or activities) we limit ourselves and our children. How can you teach self-esteem, though? While it might seem like it’s about strength, I think it’s really delicate and it needs to be coaxed. Perhaps learning by example is the best way − even if the example is set by a lightning bug or an elephant or a frog who really really wants to fly.
4. How did you cast the character voices in your stories?
Luckily, I have a very talented family! The characters of Leo, Ellison and Frank are all boys, so my only nephew at the time took on those roles. His performance as Leo has been described as “beyond cute!” Patricia’s character in “It’s Me!” was inspired by my cousin’s daughter, Sivan, so she was a natural to play that part. Everyone in our family pitches in. I have used the talents of my brother, my cousin and his wife and two daughters, and my nieces and nephews, not to mention myself and some of my alter- egos.
All of the talent who have helped to create our characters’ voices are featured on our website. Come see who they all are at http://www.kidwick.com/aa_frog_cast.html From here, you can also read about the musicians and see everyone’s picture!
5. What have you enjoyed most about your books being turned into apps?
It’s nice to introduce these stories in a digital format for a new generation of readers to enjoy! It has also allowed me to revisit my older stories, which was a nice walk down memory lane. I love how kids are empowered by turning the pages and following along in the book app. They can listen on their own and hear each word read aloud as they’re learning how to read. The audio dramatization of the stories are wonderfully integrated. When developing the app, I wanted to let children enjoy the wonder of reading a book, not just give them another game to play with. Problem solved — the team at Oceanhouse Media has captured the best elements of the books in the design of these apps, while at the same time adding functionality, fun and portability! Plus the story and illustrations look beautiful on mobile devices!
6. What advice would you give to other authors looking to turn their books into apps?
Find a great developer! I passed on working with quite a few developers before I licensed my books to Oceanhouse Media. When I originally wrote the stories, every aspect of the books’ production was important to me, whether it be the quality of the paper, the binding or the audio. I wanted the app versions to have the same level of quality as the books. Working with Oceanhouse Media, we’ve come up with some really great apps that we all are proud of.
7. What projects are you currently working on? Can we expect more children’s books in the future?
I plan to continue creating quality picture books with audio dramatizations for my young readers. The publishing industry is changing fast, so I’m always looking for new and current formats for “books”. In addition to app versions of my books, I’m exploring the idea of adapting them for TV and film, but don’t worry — I’ll always stick with what I do best, which is writing the stories and making the audio.