Previously I wrote about my 4-year-old son’s enjoyment of the “Jack and the Beanstalk” story via the app version of the digital story. He really doesn’t seem to have any concerns about whether his stories come from a book he can hold in his hands or via a narrated story on my iPad.
Last night, I gave him a new story to try out: The Berenstain Bears’ Bedtime Battle from Oceanhouse Media, Inc. This is one of six Berenstain Bears stories they offer through the App Store, but they also have many more storybook apps including the somewhat famous Once Upon a Potty series (both Joshua and Prudence characters), Five Little Monkeys series, Dr. Seuss stories, and more.
Each of the Berenstain Bears apps is $3.99, but Oceanhouse Media does offer the first ten pages of the story The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule for you to try out for free.
The version I was provided seems to be fairly typical of the other titles in the series. The opening screen offers three options — Read to Me, Read It Myself, and Auto Play. The AutoPlay reads the story and turns the pages for you, whereas the Read to Me waits for the reader’s swipe gesture to turn the page. Also available on the Read to Me pages is the ability to touch various objects on the screen — the object is spelled out on the screen in large print and the narrator’s voice pronounces the word. The reader can stay on a page as long as they like, and each page appears to offer between 6 to 10 words in addition to the storyline text that is also interactive; tapping on a word in the story’s text highlights the word and is spoken aloud.
As the story is told, the sound effects (birds chirping, owls hooting) are not so loud as to interfere with the narration. (And the narration for this app is definitely easier to hear and I was not forced to turn up the volume to maximum as I did with the Jack and the Beanstalk app.)
The interactivity with the app is limited to tapping words and images to hear them spoken aloud and the page turning. The animation is in the form of the page’s art moving slowly to the center of the screen or zooming in our out on a particular character or item.
While the app is definitely simpler (in terms of activities and interactive elements), the story was quite humorous to my 4 year old. As the story began, I really wasn’t certain whether he would sit still to the end given his experiences with the previous Jack and the Beanstalk app… but I’m happy to report that he sat still through the entire 10-12 minute Auto Play narration and his eyes never bounced to mine but remained on the screen the entire time. Given the story is about Mama and Papa Bear having a hard time putting their two cubs to bed and the hoops they have to jump through at bedtime, I guess the story struck home for both my son and me. I asked Decker if he liked the story and he nodded. I asked him what he liked and he said he thought the young bears were funny (in the ways they avoided bedtime).
On the iPad’s screen in Landscape format, the story unfolds naturally and the slow animation mimics the reading of an actual story book. The narrator’s voice is pleasing and easy to follow, and the funny ending was a hit with my son.
Even at $3.99 per story, it’s still much cheaper than a $10 to $20 story book, so this dad is quite pleased with the results. The story had Decker’s full attention for the entire 10+ minutes and I have a feeling that If I make this story a once a week or every other week occurrence, he’ll still sit through it and enjoy it. And I still have a 1 year old son who’s starting to like sitting on my lap as I read him stories — time will tell whether he enjoys the iPad storybooks, but I have a feeling he will.
You can download The Berenstain Bears’ Bedtime Battle app for $3.99 for the iPad or iPhone. The free “lite” version of The Berenstain Bears and the Golden Rule is available as well (as, of course, is the full $3.99 version).
I’ll next be covering the Arthur Reads app series from Marc Brown Studios and ScrollMotion Kids.