Sunday, August 18, 2013

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Speakaboos is a Dynamic Children's Storybook App for your iPhone, iPad, or iPad mini


Thank you to Speakaboos for providing a complimentary reading app subscription for us to base this review upon.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Our 6-1/2 year old son Luke does not like to sit and learn.  He would much rather do just about anything else (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree after all!). As a result, Luke needs extra help learning to read and also with his speech. Karen and I made a commitment to spend time with Luke each and every day to help make sure he stays caught up with his peers.  We both know how amazingly intelligent he is and know that much of his distaste for learning is related to a lack of confidence due to not being able to read. Karen and I will guide Luke past this barrier no matter what. I liken this challenge to removing bricks from a dam . . . the next brick could be the one to burst it open.

Finding ways to help teach Luke is a challenge. There are literally thousands of tools out there to help a child learn to read, but finding one that works for both Luke and us is surprisingly hard to do. The fact that Karen and I are very busy ourselves makes the challenge that much more difficult. Any learning tool that utilizes technology to give Karen and I a helping hand would be a welcome one.

Speakaboos is a storybook app for your iPad or iPhone with an accompanying website that offers dynamic storytelling for your child. When Karen and I learned about Speakaboos, we were very interested in this new tool to help us motivate Luke to sit and read.

Speakaboos is not a program that teaches your child how to read, but rather an app that reads to and with your child in a dynamic and fun way. It is like an interactive book that your child can guide through the story at their own pace.

The imagery is bright and artful and the voice acting is superb. The voice actors enunciate each word clearly which is good for Luke's speech. There are many stories and characters to choose from, literally dozens to experience with more becoming available in the future. I can see Luke following his favorites and looking again and again for new stories to become available.

Each story comes with different options to guide your child through the story. Some are simply read to your child with interactive pictures and others allow your child to progress the narrator by touching the words one at a time.

In addition to stories, Speakaboos offers music and more through the app. All of the content is bright, exciting, and visually interesting for your child. I can see where a child may think they are being entertained without realizing they are actually learning.

Overall I think Speakaboos is a big help with Luke. Alone it is not going to teach Luke how to read, but Speakaboos is a wonderful way to break up the monotony of our traditional lessons. It is also a great tool to use when Karen and I just don’t have time for a traditional lesson.

The only reservations I have about Speakaboos is the navigation though the text in a story. The words are easy to see and read, but are just small enough to require a bit of dexterity to touch and advance the story. If we are feeling this challenge on an iPad mini, I can only imagine it's harder on an iPhone. Although its good for Luke to work on his fine motor skills, I feel the extra effort to accurately touch the words detracts from the importance of moving the story and reading forward.  We even tried giving Luke a stylus to use, but the results were similar.  We found that the arrows to scroll the text up and down also needed to be tapped just right in order to work.

Overall Speakaboos is a wonderful app and I am glad I have it as one of the tools we utilize to help Luke learn to read. Having a tool that we can use to add some excitement (and a break for me and Karen!) is very welcome.

You can download the Speakaboos app for free on iTunes.  Although there are a limited number of stories that you can view for free, you will need to subscribe to continue your usage.  For a limited time, you can receive your first month for just $0.99.  After that, the cost is $4.99/month or $49.99/year.