Tuesday, 22 January 2013

#readitmummiesanddaddies2013 - E-books, MeBooks and making the story your own

The MeBooks Library. Classics old and new
This week's theme for #readitmummiesanddaddies2013 is dipping into technology, and the various ways that new portable devices such as tablets and netbooks are changing the way children enjoy stories.

Some time ago we covered a rather innovative app called MeBooks by MadeInMe, a company that produces engaging apps to stimulate a child's love of stories and plays.

MeBooks is one of a brace of storefront-led storybook apps but what makes MeBooks stand out is the ability for parents and children to customise the stories themselves.

Shown below is a typical MeBook page layout with the innovative hotspots in place:

Hotspots mark out areas where dialogue and sound can be added to your favourite stories
Though most MeBooks are beautifully read by a host of celebrity readers, the fun begins when parents sneakily have a play with the app while their children are tucked up in bed, and record their own dialogue (and silly voices of course!) over a child's stories. Equally enjoyable is working your way through a book together, taking it in turns to read and record the story as you go - eventually playing it back or even saving it for later.

The store works particularly well, and has a brilliant selection of books both old and new (including some of our all time favourites like "Not Now, Bernard" by David McKee and the sublime classic Ladybird children's fairy tale books, complete with all that lovely lovely painted artwork.

To get you up and running, you get a book for free with optional in-app purchases for the other titles. Depending on your point of view about paying for e-books these aren't too unreasonably priced so you can soon build up quite a library of brilliant stories to share, read, record and enjoy.

MeBooks (available from the app store, free with optional in-app purchases)

We're starting to see more and more instances of 'customisation' in e-books and storytelling apps and we firmly believe that if you can let a child and their parents 'own' a story in some way, putting their personal stamp on it, it feels all the more enjoyable and truly 'theirs'.

Apps that allow children to make up their own stories are equally welcome, particularly when an app gives children the assets they need to start building a story or even an interactive play without needing artistic skills and expertise. We've seen quite a few apps like this but the standout is definitely Top That Publishing's 'The Froobles'. Again, available for free with optional in-app purchases, the free version is absolutely packed full of potential.

Make your own plays and stories with The Froobles
Seen here is the 'make a play' part of the app - which is by far our favourite bit of this feature-rich app. Children can choose a scene, choose their favourite froobles characters and start recording short movies (complete with speech and sounds they add themselves) to tell a story. Once they hit the record button, they can move characters around, and act out a scene - then save it for later playback. Charlotte can literally spend hours with this and it's so easy and intuitive to use that she can even be left to her own devices while playing it.

The app also contains a great selection of entertaining stories featuring the Froobles gang, as well as other activities like colouring and drawing.

Colour in your favourite members of the Froobles gang
The Froobles range is expanding this year and Top That are also producing toys and merchandise based on these very popular characters. The app is slick and very well done with a great range of celebrities taking up reading duties for the stories (Johnny Vaughan is brilliant and funny reading Little Jack Potato - which surely was based on him!)

The Storybook app market is exploding at the moment, but in our next article we'll be looking into (perhaps not so) dim and distant future, and how new emerging technology may offer new and exciting ways to engage children and parents with reading using their favourite gadgetry.