From TV to Tablet, How to Keep Kids Engaged in Books
By Tania Karas
LeVar Burton, with the Reading Rainbow iPad App.
While parents, educators and app-makers debate the pros and cons of digital devices for kids, a children’s TV show from the 80s is stepping into the fray.
The Reading Rainbow TV series, a children’s television show that promoted literacy, is back in the form of an iPad app. The series, which launched in 1983, stopped filming in 2006.
Like the original PBS show, the new app features the actor LeVar Burton guiding kids and parents through children’s books organized into themes such as science, relationships, and animals, written by authors including John Updike and Paul Meisel. Burton, who also played Kunta Kinte in the TV series “Roots” and Geordi La Forge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” will narrate some of the stories.
After Reading Rainbow went off the air, Burton co-founded RRRKidz, Inc., a multimedia company focusing on children and education. The Reading Rainbow app, which was released in Apple’s app store this week, is their first project.
The interactive app includes 150 books and 16 videos, including some footage from the original show. “Even in the digital realm, a book still needs to be a book,” Burton said. “Today’s kids want whistles and bells. We give them those whistles and bells in a way that does not interrupt the flow of the narrative.”
A book about trucks, for example, might feature wheels that spin and horns that honk aloud when a child taps the screen. Most video features and games are accessed in other parts of the app, to be explored as enrichment activities before or after reading the book, Burton says.
The app works on a subscription model — $10 per month or $30 for six months — and kids can hold up to five books at a time in their personalized “backpack.” The app also makes reading recommendations based on a child’s age and interests. Parents can monitor their kids’ reading progress in a special dashboard displaying books they’ve completed.
As for the fear that tablets have a tendency to make kids “zone out,” Burton says he’s dealt with that concern before.
“The same criticism was said about TV, that it would turn us all into zombies,” Burton said. It’s up to parents to be discerning about how kids use the technology, and which technology they use, he said. “You know they’re going to be on these devices,” he continued. “The question is, as a parent, where are you going to steer your child?”
The News Source: http://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2012/06/22/from-t-v-to-tablet-how-to-keep-kids-engaged-in-books/