As the school year draws to an end (already happened for some of you), kids across America are celebrating, teachers are letting out a big sigh of relief and if you’re like me, besides a last minute frantic search for affordable summer camps, moms are wondering what to do with their kids for the next three months. More importantly, you might be wondering how you can prevent your kids’ young brains from sitting idle and suffering from the infamous “summer slide,” or learning loss that occurs during the summer months. I’m all for giving the kids time to relax and have some fun in the summer, but there are ways to retain invaluable skills they’ve learned over the past several months without traditional instruction.
When it comes to reading, I’m so glad that all my girls are avid readers and love going to the library to pick out books. I, for one, am planning to make visits to the library, pretty regular during the summer months, especially because most libraries offer a summer reading program with challenging goals and lots of incentives to keep young ones interested. However, even my girls who have a love for reading, get bored of sitting and reading one hard cover book after another after a while. It’s good to mix it up and keep things interesting. My girls, like most kids, love anything they can do on their iPad, iPod or any digital device, for that matter. Their teachers were already using online apps for math and reading and so I naturally took their cue to look for online summer reading ideas. I was glad that a couple of companies approached me with their digital reading apps and I was happy to have my girls try a couple of them. Below are a few of the ones that piqued my interest and provided options to suit different needs.
1) Jonty – The Dinosaur Who Could Not Go to Sleep
If you want to get your feet wet in the realm of digital books, try this easy-to-use app or eBook that provides your younger ones with a cute story about Jonty, a dinosaur who has trouble falling asleep (sound familiar?). It comes with four modes, Read to Me (narrator reads and you turn the page), Read It Myself (you read and turn the page), Auto Play (narrator reads with no interaction on your part) and Add to Story (narrator reads while you interact with the story by adding elements from a menu). My 4-year-old loved interacting with the story and wanted to keep playing with it over and over again.
Age Range: Preschool Children
Compatible with iPad 2 and above and iPad mini
With over 700 digital books offered in 11 different genres, your kids will never get bored with FarFaria. This digital books app provides engaging stories with beautiful illustrations and comes in three modes (Read to Me, Read Myself and Auto Play). All my girls spent some time using the app and I must say both my 4-year-old and 6-year-old gave it a thumbs up. I realized that my 4-year-old was completely engrossed in the stories when I noticed that it had become unusually quiet in the house. And that’s not a bad thing. Not at all.
Age Range: 2 to 9
Cost: $3.99/month | $23.99/6 months | $39.99/year
Compatible with iPad
3) PlayTales Gold
This is another digital books app that provides interactive digital books that include read-along text and personalization with three play modes (Read to Me, Read by Myself and Autoplay). Over 200 books are available in 8 different languages and more are being added every week. The PlayTales library includes classic children’s tales such as The Ugly Duckling, Sleeping Beauty, and Puss in Boots, along with new favorites like Pocoyo, Popeye, and Sesame Street.
Age range: 1 to 12
Cost: $4.99/month | $9.99/6 months | $19.99/year
Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod
Tales2Go is an audiobook service for kids similar to Netflix. It streams thousands of children’s books to your laptop and mobile devices. As the name implies, it’s perfect for use on a long road trip with the kids or even on an airplane. The books are sorted into 11 different categories such as age, genre, Spanish, Kids Music and even parenting books for Mom & Dad. Due to the vast and wide range of books offered, this app is probably a better option for older kids.
Age range: 3 to 12
Cost: $9.99/month | $99.99/year
Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod
5) Kindle Fire HD Tablet
We bought our oldest the Kindle Fire HD for her birthday earlier this year because her school allows and encourages the use of eReaders, it’s more affordable than other similar digital devices and is primarily for reading eBooks rather than playing games and watching videos. She can borrow eBooks from the local library like she would a hard copy, but for some reason kids love to do things via digital devices. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, your child would also have access to the Owner’s Lending Library where they would be able to borrow one free eBook per month. Kindle FreeTime, an all-in-one subscription service, is also available for children 3-8 where they can access and choose from thousands of eBooks, educational apps, games, videos and TV.
6) Highlights Magazine
Another fun but non-digital option for summer reading would be a subscription to Highlights Magazine. My two oldest daughters received subscriptions to Highlights (ages 6-12) and High-Five (ages 2-6) for Christmas a couple of years ago from one of their aunts and they loved it. The monthly 40-page issue includes articles on various topics, activities, games, puzzles, etc. My girls were always excited to receive a new issue in the mail every month. They also have Hello, the magazine version for 0- to 2- year-olds.
Obviously, all of the selections above are great options all year long. But they come in especially handy in the summer months when most families take their vacation, which include long rides in the car and tedious flights, and need something to keep the kids occupied. All of the them offer offline accessibility options. Even in my day-to-day, my 4-year-old constantly asks me to read her a book. Her requests often seem to come at inopportune times when I’m working on something or am in the middle of cooking dinner. These are the times that I can rely on digital reading apps like the ones above to keep her occupied and happy. I do believe though, that these are excellent complements to traditional hard copy reading and not replacements.
Free access to Jonty and FarFaria were provided for review purposes but all opinions presented here are my own.
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