Monthly Archives: June 2013

Some Thoughts on e-Books

Yes I am librarian, and yes I love books, the actual physical book.  But that does not mean that I turn my nose up at e-books.  My husband loves them. Really the only way he reads books.  I too have several e-books in my library on my iPad, but I still love the actual book. However, e-books do help in many ways, so allow me to give you some reasons why I think e-books are valuable to have. But make no mistake…I still would rather hold the book in my hand, since to me if offers a richer experience.

1. For young readers, or those struggling to read, many of the e-book apps are engage the users instantly since they have built-in multimedia functions.  This will capture attentions faster than words on a page by simply providing more than just a reading tool, but a full interactive experience.

2. They travel easily.  Load up a Kindle, Nook, iPad or other device and you can have a whole library to take with you.  Perfect for long car rides, airplane trips, or other vacationing times. This also comes in handy when you have several different reading levels, from picture books to YA novels.  This will support all readers in one handy device.

3. They do save money. On average e-books cost less than its printed counterpart.  So many parents will enjoy this aspect.

Ok so I gave you three very good reasons for choosing e-books.  But again, I must comment that I am still a fan of the physical product.  I experience a more personal connection to the material; I enjoy the aspect of holding on to covers (if I grab to tight I don’t run the risk of flipping the page like I have done with e-books).  However, I am also a realist.  I am of a dying breed I hate to say.  e-Books are not going anywhere, we should all face it.  But I will forever buy a book, an actual book.  With that said I am simply happy knowing that people, especially kids, are reading. In any format.


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Promote Summer Reading

Lets face it, most kids would rather be running around outside, playing on the beach, swimming, doing anything else but reading.  So here are some ways to them interested in it, and maybe even yourself.

1. Create Your Own Travel Guide.  Why should AAA and Frommers have the only travel books out there? If your family is taking a trip this summer create your travel guide. Visit the local library and search online to research about your destination. Talk to the tourist bureau to find out some local information.  But all the information together in a book to read before you leave.

2.  Online Book Talks.  Using Skype, Facetime, Voicethread, or other online programs, connect to other family members and friends throughout the country.  Read one book or have each member talk about a book they have recently finished.  Try to have at least three meetings for the summer. This is great way to connect adults with kids, and kids of different ages.

3. Read the Book Than See the Movie.  I am a huge supporter of this mainly because I feel that the movies never quite capture the essence of the book.  And with all of the new movies based on books coming out this year this is best time to learn about all the soon to be popular movies. But don’t just use  new movies, try reading some classic fiction as well.

4. Books without Words.  Sounds odd, but this is so much fun.  Read a picture book without using the words.  Let young readers make up their own story, or read as a family with each member “reading” a page and adding to the story.

5. MAD LIBS!  I must admit I still play this; especially during long car rides.  Mad Libs is a great way to improve grammar and vocabulary skills ages 9-up but this can be modified for younger users by asking for action, place, or person.

6. Cooking Up a Story.  Now BBQ’s are staple of the summer months, why not let create your cookbook to highlight some your summer favorites.  List the top ice cream flavors in alphabetical order;  give the kids a list of ingredients to create their own personal dish. Than put them all together in  your own family cookbook. Another fun activity involving food, create a meal that you read about in one of the books.  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is great for this…How to Eat Fried Worms not so much.

7.  Scavenger Hunt.  Get friends involved for this fun activity.  Let the group of kids pick a chapter book.  Parents read it ahead of time and select two or more (but no more than 5) parts of each chapter and write a clue about said parts.  Challenge the group to read the book and whoever figures out the most clues wins.  Pick a prize like a free ice cream.

8. Create a Summer Journal/Scrap-book.  There are several online journals/scrapbooks, journal/scrap-book apps there, or go the old-fashioned way and get a physical one.  This can be an individual project or maybe a group project.  Collect souvenirs from memorable summer moments, use pictures, drawings, anything that showcases a fun summer moment.  For the journal aspect of the project at once a week choose a topic to write about, have all members participating write about that topic. It can be anything from favorite memory, best birthday ever, scariest movie, etc.  But don’t limit to once a week, allow users to add to it whenever they feel. By the time fall comes you will have a whole story celebrating that summer.

9. I’m So Board.  When its night-time or on those unfortunate rainy days get out some word board games, such as scrabble, boggle, upwords, etc.  Give bonus points for longer words or words you recently learned from a book.  Keep a running score, adding every time you play. At the end of the summer see who won and give a prize.



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Apps for Summer Learning (Part 4)

For our final installment in the Apps for Summer Learning Posts we have apps that are geared toward helping children with special needs.  Now please remember that not all of the apps I am listed are going to be right for you or your child but I hope that some do help, or at the very least entertain.

xpressAutismXpress for iOS and Android $1.99
1 in 160 children have a form of autism making this twice as common has previous childhood conditions.  However, unlike some diseases autism is lifelong disability that primarily affects three areas of life skills: social interaction,  behavior, and communication.  This is where AutismXpress can help, the app was created with the goal to increase awareness about the autism spectrum, and to help those with autism to show their emotions through the use of color faces and icons.

signed storiesSigned Stories for iOS Free
Already a popular television series in the UK the Signed Stories app was designed for the hearing impaired.  The stories selected at told in American Sign Language.  With every book readers will add new words to their video dictionary, and with new books added frequently that dictionary will grow quickly.  A 2013 International Webby Honoree this is a great app to help build confidence the skills for those with hearing loss or who are hearing impaired.  The app and the first story are free but additional books can be purchased for $5 to $7 each.

choiceChoiceworks for iOS $4.99
An essential app for helping children with a variety of needs by creating visual supports to help them complete daily routines,  improve waiting skills, and understand their feelings.  This app was designed to provide caregivers with clear, consistent support to develop the child’s independence. Comes with three boards, schedule, waiting, and feeling that allows the user to visually see what is required of them, or how their emotions might be effecting them.

sono flexSono Flex for iOS and Android $99.99
For users who are nonverbal or have communication difficulties this app was designed to allow them to express themselves easily and succinctly.   Tobii Sono Flex is an easy to use AAC vocabulary app that turns symbols into speech.  By combining the benefits of structure and flexibility, this app provides the basic framework for language development by matching the user with their communication needs.

superSuper Duper WH Question Cards Pro for iOS $11.99
Teach young learners how to correctly ask and then answer the five WH questions, Who, What, Where, When and Why.  Through four entertaining games  for each of the set of cards, as well as a data tracking system for parents or teachers, students will be learn the power of asking the right question.

dragonDragon Dictation for iOS  Free
A great app to help children with fine motor skill difficulties or those with physical impairments.  By simply speaking into the microphone the words appear on the screen instantly.  Though not the only speech to text app out there, this is definitely one of the easiest to use.






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Apps for Summer Learning (Part 3)

So I have shown you apps for all of the core subject areas…but what about the creative end?  Here are some great apps to help foster the creative power of the students all summer long.

drawing carlDrawing Carl  for iOS $1.99
Probably the best drawing app out there for kids, designed by Tayasui this app allows for kids to create beautiful drawings with easy to use tools such as painting and stamping.  Kids will enjoy playing with stickers that can talk, decorating  pictures uploaded from their photo libraries, and sharing their creations through Facebook  and the Drawing Carl website; where they can vote on the best ones.  This is a fun app to keep those creative brains going and to stop them from drawing all over your walls.

momaMoMA Art Lab  for iOS $2.99
Young artists for grades 2 and up can explore how the great modern artists use shapes, lines, and color and create their own artwork inspired by the MoMA exhibits.  Some of the artists featured are Henry Matisse, Jean Arp, and Elizabeth Murray.  This is a great app for families to learn about art, discover artists and their techniques, find inspiration, and even create a group picture.  This is an app that parents might be fighting their kids for.

musicMusic Tutor  for iOS and Android Free or $0.99 (depending on the version)
Kids can practice their music skills with short quizzes (1 to 10 minutes) that focus on pitch identification, and sight-reading skills.  Practice between treble, base or both to enhance your musical ear.


pianoViruoso Piano  for iOS Free
The best app to teach basic keyboard skills. The app has several unique features such as duet mode (for iPads only), key labels, the ability to play with your musical library, and  play wirelessly from your device to your Apple TV.  Also the app allows you to choose between two types of pianos,  a classic grand concert piano and the broken one you will find in a run down pub.


urlLet’s Create Pottery  for iOS and Android $4.99
Creating ceramics just got a whole lot cleaner! Now adults and kids can create one-of-a-kind pottery without getting messy.  Spin the clay on the wheel, shape and mold your pottery using some of the dozen of materials available to express your inner artist.  Glazing and firing it off in the kiln was never easier.  This app not only allows for the creative mind to flourish but also has a calming effect over the users.

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Introducing PAPER

urlHonored as 2012 app of the year from Apple, Paper is an easy to use tool to create some of the most stunning pictures on the iPad. Capture your ideas as drawings, sketches, diagrams, illustrations or notes and easily share them across the web through several social networks. The download is free and you receive the standard drawing tool, but you can purchase additional drawing utensils in the app store for $1.99 each.  This is an amazing app the has endless possibilities for any creative mind.

Check our the video for a peek and what you can do.

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Apps for Summer Learning (Part 2.)

The clock is ticking…but the learning doesn’t have to stop for the summer. Here are some great apps to keep kids motivated during the summer. We will look at apps concerning social studies this post.

url Learn the World  for iOs $1.99
Take a trip around the world without ever boarding a plane. This app allows users to expand their knowledge of world geography through animated activities.  Young learners and even the most curious adult will learn world geography, country names, country capitals, country currency, country presidents,  national facts and nation history.  The multiple-choice quizzes  will allow the user to earn points to collect country flags. There five interactive activities proven to enhance your geographic knowledge are. This is great app to explore and learn about the world.


Geo DriveGeography Drive USA  for iOS, Nook and Kindle $3.99
Jump in the driver’s seat and cruise across the country in fact-packed game turning standard textbook geography into the ultimate road trip. Learn about the 50 states by answering questions in a highly addictive game to unlock gas stations, earn bonus money to upgrade your ride, and jump on airplanes, all to score trophies and move around the country.  Learn about national parks, rivers, state shapes, capitals and nicknames, the meaning behind the state flags, and important landmarks and key historical facts. The more you know, the further you’ll go in the all-out, cross-country adventure game designed to fuel your drive to learn.

urlMyCongress  for iOS  Free
MyCongress is a portal to detailed information about your elected U.S. Congressional officials. Track their news, video and Twitter feeds. Look up their official Open Congress profile or contact them directly. MyCongress helps you get in touch with your government.


urlDisney American Presidents for iOS $3.99
Users are invited to look through “The Unofficial Oval Office Scrapbook” with each spread devoted to a president and features a portrait, their birth (and in some in cases death) dates, a signature and awards received. Also included are some little-known facts about each president; as well as videos, pop-up fact bubbles, and sidebar information like  presidential number, term(s) served, corresponding historical era, party, vice president(s), and birth state.


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Apps for Summer Learning (Part 1.)

With the school year coming to an end skills tend to drop over the summer.  So why not use these next two months to continue to build and improve upon the lessons already taught throughout the school year.  Who knows your child might even pick up some new skills. Here are some great apps for the Language Arts portion of our series.

super-why[1]Super Why! iOS and Android for $2.99
Super Why was developed by Bean Creative in corporation with PBS to help support young learners the ability to build upon their reading skills with interactive literacy games. Your child can read and play along with the four major characters from the Super Why television show, while practicing the alphabet, reading and writing, spelling, and rhyming. The television series itself was designed to help build critical thinking skills in children ages 3-6 for their reading success.  This is perfect for just starting out readers and for those who need to develop more.

mzl.sbywtvlb.1024x1024-65[1]Handwriting Without Tears: Wet-Dry-Try iOs and Android for $4.99
Handwriting fluency is fundamental to developing reading and critical thinking skills because the child not only expresses themselves through writing but they must learn to think and write at the same time.  Focusing on both fun and achievement, helps to spark a curiosity to the learning process and learning proper handwriting habits will help them to become better writers and communicators in elementary, middle and high school.

grammer jammers[1]Grammar Jammers  iOS for $2.99 (primary edition is free)
Grammar Jammers is designed for grades K-5 and hopes to take the dreaded grammar lesson into a fun and interactive time. Using catchy animation and songs and rhymes children will play interactive games and quizzes to unlock interactive prizes and even more quizzes.  Grammar Jammers Primary Edition includes unique animations and quiz questions on the following topics: Adjectives, Contractions, Nouns, Pronouns, Punctuation, Sentences, and Verbs. Grammar Jammers is also available in Elementary and Middle Editions.

storia_logo_lowres1[1]Storia  iOS and Android for Free 
This app from Scholastic is a e-reader  that is designed just for kids of all ages, from pre-school to 7th grade and up.  All storia books are embedded with questions, learning activities, and a pop-up dictionary feature to help with definitions and pronunciations.  You get five free books when you download but additional books can be purchased and added to the bookshelf.  Most of the books cost from $5.99 to $8.99.

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