Bob Books iPhone App: Experience Review

You may already be familiar with Bob Books, a reading series designed for the early stages of reading, when kids figure out letters together form words. The small books are leveled based on a child’s ability and include simple, short word sentences with line drawing illustrations to illustrate what’s being said. I actually picked up a few of these books for my 4-year old.

Now your child can enjoy a more interactive experience with the Bob Books Magic of Reading iPhone and iPad app ($1.99). Like the original book series, the app is designed in with built-in levels, enabling kids to progress at their own pace :

  • Level 1 – When you tap the picture, there’s audio to tell you what word your child is working on. The word appears below the image you’ll see letter hints, gravity helps you drop letters in the right place, and you can play letters in any order.
  • Level 2 – Now you have to place letters in left-to-right order. If you try to play a letter out of order it will just bounce out.
  • Level 3 – The letter hints are gone [in the space below each image] and so is gravity. You’ll also have to spell some words from the caption.
  • Level 4 – Now there are extra letters [that appear on-screen] that aren’t actually used in the word. You’ll need to remember how to spell the word to finish the game.

When you start the app, the first story plays. Each story processes to a little harder, adding more words to the caption and more words you have to spell. Each story opens with a black and white line drawing and a caption underneath. Elements in the picture shake inviting the kids to touch. When you touch on one of the pictures you enter into one of the interactive spelling screens. Only the image of what word they are working on appears on-screen and the letter titles used to spell the word are spread over the screen. If the child touches the image, the word is said again as a reminder. Like wise, if they touch the titles, the letter sound is made. In level 1, touching the letter spaces under the picture also makes the letter sound plus it will shake the corresponding tile to help kids find the letter needed. My daughter never touched the spaces under the picture so she never discovered this trick; she went right for the letter tiles and tried working on building the word.

Once a word is spelled out, the word is sounded out, given a visual emphasis on each letter sound. The image then transitions into colour and reappears within the original story. Images not yet in colour will shake to encourage kids to click and spell those words too. Once all the words are done and the whole picture is in colour, a background scene transitions in and a small animation plays supporting the caption below. As this happens, the caption is read out loud, highlighting the words as they are said. This is a great way to reinforce them as the child follows along.

During each story subtle navigational elements appear on the screen allowing you to skip a story to move on to the next story or to go to the story menu. The story menu is like a long film strip with pictures of each story so your child can easily revisit a story they enjoy or move forward if a particular story isn’t challenging enough (the stories increase in difficulty by adding more words, longer words, new words). The story menu also shows what level your child has completed for each story. As I mentioned above, there are 4 levels with each story. You can go through all the stories in level 1 and then repeat them again for the subsequent levels or you can keep repeating a particular story, moving up a level each time. The app remembers what level your child is on and will automatically progress him or her. There is an option of resetting the app to clear any progress you have saved. This is good if you want to start from level 1 again or if you want to share the experience with another child. There are some set-up options to that enable you to determine when music plays during the app, set levels automatically or to a specific level and use letter name or phonics for spelling tiles.

You can see my 4-year old as she experiments with the Bob Books Magic Reading app:

It’s no surprise my daughter was able to figure out how the program worked, without any assistance from me; many kids today have already been exposed to various forms of technology and are quick learners. The Bob Books Magic Reading app is designed to work with your child’s natural inquisitive nature, interacting as they click on things.

Although we do enjoy the Bob Books, the Bob Books Reading Magic app is much more engaging and keeps my daughter interested longer. She still gets excited and proud when she reads a screen on her own. The fact that the app remembers my daughter’s progress and that it’s portability makes it great for the Dr.’s office waiting room, grocery shopping or any other time when my daughter is with me, these elements are things I enjoy about the app as a parent. However there are a few things I’d love to see added to any updates (another great feature of an app, the ability to make updates for those who already own a copy). I would love the option of setting profiles so I don’t have to erase one child’s history so another can use it. Another great feature would be the option to replay the caption again after the audio has played it. Right now it just plays once and it happens at the same time as the animation on the screen. I found my daughter was distracted by the animation and would end up missing the words being highlighted as the narrator read it. To be able to play the caption again and see the highlights would be great, especially if the sentence has a few words and the child is getting muddled; they could play the caption over and over, seeing each word highlighted as it was read.

The Bob Books Reading Magic app was created by Learning Touch, the makers of the best-selling First Words series of learning-to-read apps. It marries First Words’ breakthrough learning-to-read interface with the beloved characters and stores of Bob Books. The app includes twelve scenes for a total of 32 words. For game levels provide increasing challenges to children as they play.

I want to thank the folks at Bob Books and Hopscotch Consulting for providing me with the app so we could experience it and share it with you.

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One response to this post.

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