Review: Reading Rainbow App for iPad

We love using our iPad in our schooling. I am always looking out for education apps that Kyri will enjoy.

A friend recently suggested Reading Rainbow for the iPad. I grew up with Levar Burton and Reading Rainbow, and I have always loved the way the show brought stories to life.

20130503-220702.jpg

The Reading Rainbow app is more than just a continuation of the now-retired television show. It is an interactive library of books which have had animations added, and field trips which are video clips covering a wide range of topics. Many of these video clips are from the original show, and there is also new content as well.

When you subscribe to Reading Rainbow, you enter the names and ages of all the children who will be using the app, as well as three areas of interest for each child. Each child then has their own “backpack” where they can have up to five books downloaded at a time. Books are recommended based on the child’s age, but you access to all the content. You return books to the libary in order to check more out. There is no limit to how often you can check out a book. Backpacks can be personalized by choosing from a selection of patterns and designs.

20130503-220714.jpg

In order to select a book, your child clicks on one of the several floating islands on the main screen. Each island is basically a category of books to choose from. The islands include:

Action Adventures and Magical Tales

Genius Academy

Awesome People

National Geographic Kids

Animal Kingdom

My Friends My Family

There is a new island that is labeled Coming Soon – I am excited to see what the new content will be!

When the child select an island they are presented with a sliding selection of books in that particular category. Below the book selections are relevant video field trips.

20130503-220734.jpg

After choosing a book to read and downloading it to the backpack, the child can choose to either read it themselves, or have it read aloud. Often it is Levar Burton who is reading the book.

As the pages are turned, the words are read and there are select animations that have been included. These animations may be as simple as the wagging of a dog’s tale, but for many of the National Geographic Kids books geared toward younger kids, there is a lot more interaction with the book – selecting items on the page, counting items, etc.

20130503-220744.jpg

Each book has a game that can be played as well. This is a matching game, with snapshots from the book covered under each tile

When a book is finished, the child gets a sticker for their sticker book. The sticker book is accessed through the reward ribbon icon, and each island category has its own page in the sticker book. Stickers can be selected and placed on a picture of the island – and these stickers can be removed and placed again as often as the child wants.

20130503-220725.jpg

This is a great app – there are plenty of book selections, the animations really capture the imagination of the reader, and the sticker rewards are a big hit. I love having book categories presented as islands to be selected. As an added bonus, I can go into the settings menu and check on her reading progress. There is a report that tells me what books have been read and what length of time was spent on each book.

Now the details… downloading the app is free. When you download the app, each child you list will get to select one book to try it out. Reading Rainbow has a paid subscription to continue downloading books. The regular rate is $9.99 a month, but you can get six months for only $30 – this is a great deal! I am always a little hesitant about spending money on apps, since there are plenty of free ones out there. In this case, though, I think it is worth the investment. A lot of effort has been put into the app, making it easy for children to use and enjoy.

Book Review: Shells! Shells! Shells!

If you haven’t had a chance to read any books written and illustrated by Nancy Elizabeth Wallace, you are really missing out. The author has written several books which cover science topics, and her books are geared toward a younger audience. We have read several of her books now, and just love them!

This week we read Shells!Shells!Shells! This book follows the two main characters, Buddy and his mother, as they search for seashells on the beach. Buddy’s mother explains what animals form the shells and what purpose they serve. She points out the different style of shells that are found. Finally, there is a craft suggested at the end of the book.

 

The story is illustrated using a combination of real images (in this book, the images are of various types of sea shells) along with paper cut-outs. It is a wonderful children’s story, with plenty of interesting facts about mollusks and how shells are made. The explanations are simple enough though, so children (target age is preschool through early Elementary) will understand. Wallace does introduce vocabulary that is relevant to the topic, defining words such as mantle, pigment center, operculum, univalve and bivalve.

shells1

 

Wallace’s books often end with a suggested craft that follows along with the topic. This particular book gave instructions for making a sea shell book marker. We used colored card stock along with some colored construction paper to create ours. We ended up with several colorful and creative bookmarks.

shell_bookmark

I would encourage you to include this book in your study of Mollusks, and be sure to check out additional titles she has written on various other topics, including leaves, seeds and rocks. Her other offerings are wonderful and can be a wonderful addition to your homeschool reading selections.

Educating Vegan Children

When we first decided to homeschool Kyri, I wanted to incorporate vegan ethics into our education plans. At this young age, most if not all of what Kyri has learned about our vegan lifestyle has been informal – we discuss what we do and do not eat (or wear or use) and for what reason. She has learned to ask if something contains animals in it before eating it. We talk about why we don’t eat animals – at a level a five year old gets. She knows what it means for an animal to die, as she was with me when I discovered our 20-year-old cat had died. So she does understand that dead means, well, dead. So explaining to her that meat comes from dead animals is simple enough for her. She understands that animals are killed for food and that there are plenty of other things to eat besides animals, so why would you want to?

In our household, vegan is the norm. While my spouse is omni, he eats mostly vegan at home (we have a grilling agreement in place). However, outside of our home, Kyri is bombarded with non-vegan and non-vegetarian messages. From books and cartoons that promote circus attendance to toy food products that always contain meat products, messages about using animals for entertainment, eating meat and participating in the “standard american diet” are all around us. I try to buffer her and use the exposure as an educational opportunity, but I would love to have vegetarian- and vegan- friendly material so she doesn’t feel like she’s the only one. We are VERY blessed with our homeschool associations – at co-op the moms usually make an effort to ensure that there are vegan options for Kyri. This is so appreciated – I never ask for accomodation for our lifestyle (just a heads up so I can plan for an vegan alternative for Kyri if necessary) but it really helps to not have Kyri singled out over something like food.

I’ve begun compiling a list of childrens books that either have vegan/vegetarian themes or characters, or are geared toward vegan/vegetarian children. I’ve also found cookbooks aimed toward young vegetarians, and since Kyri is my kitchen helper and loves my cookbooks, I think these are worth checking out.

Fiction

That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things

Herb the Vegetarian Dragon

Hubert the Pudge: A Vegetarian Tale

Friends Forever: The Story of a Budding Friendship between a Vegetarian Spider and a Feisty Fly

The Secret Life Of Mitch Spinach

Mitch Spinach and the Smell of Victory

Big Bob And The Thanksgiving Potato

Vunce Upon a Time

‘Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

Growing Vegetable Soup

Non-fiction

I’m a Vegetarian: Amazing facts and ideas for healthy vegetarians

I Love Vegetarian Food: Coloring Book

Cookbooks

Kids Can Cook: Vegetarian Recipes Kitchen-Tested by Kids for Kids

The Jumbo Vegetarian Cookbook (Jumbo Books)

Easy Vegetarian Foods from Around the World (Easy Cookbooks for Kids)

Cooking With Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon

Salad People and More Real Recipes: A New Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up

For Parents: Childrearing

Raising Vegetarian Children : A Guide to Good Health and Family Harmony

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Because I am parenting a younger child I was not looking for ethics books geared toward older children and teens. This list will continue to be updated as I find additonal resources. I am also in the process of finding vegan-friendly resources online that would be helpful in a vegan/vegetarian curriculum. Look for that in a subsequent post.