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The 10 Top Kindergarten Apps from Tech With Kids

Posted by Tom on Jul 22, 2014

Tech With Kids is (and I say this entirely in the spirit of objectivity, despite whatever self-interest such a statement might demonstrate, as will become momentarily apparent) one of the very best sites for reviews of kids apps. Run by USA Today’s Jinny Gudmundsen, it’s knowledgeable, thorough, and fair – an invaluable resource for any parents, teachers, or other grown-ups looking for the best apps for children.

And so it’s incredibly gratifying to see three Nosy Crow apps in the site’s list of the 10 Top Kindergarten AppsJack and the Beanstalk, Little Red Riding Hood, and Rounds: Parker Penguin.

Here’s Tech With Kids’ full review for Jack and the Beanstalk. Jinny writes:

“This classic fairy tale is presented in an innovative way that blends gaming and reading so that reluctant readers will be intrigued […] What makes this version special — besides the lovely illustrations and lively animations — is the addition of game-like elements into the story […] By adding games inside this popular story featuring a little boy on an adventure, Jack and the Beanstalk draws in little boys who are reluctant to read […] Like Nosy Crow’s Little Red Riding Hood, this version of Jack and the Beanstalk also puts kids in charge of the outcome of the story. This is empowering to kids, making this book an easy favorite. Jack and the Beanstalk by Nosy Crow cleverly creates an intersection where gaming and reading meet.”

Here’s our trailer for Jack and the Beanstalk:

Here’s Tech With Kids’ full review for Little Red Riding Hood. Jinny writes:

“A modern version of the classic tale where Little Red is the heroine, and she saves her granny from the wolf. The app lets you choose your own path through the woods, so when you replay it, you can experience several different endings […] In addition to this delightful choose-your-own-adventure aspect of this fairy tale, the app also shines for its user-generated narrative. In addition to hearing a narrator, kids tap the characters to hear more of the story. The app also contains fun mini-games played with the fully-animated characters you meet in the woods […] It’s refreshing to see Little Red Riding Hood depicted as a brave, quick-thinking and resourceful character who gets rid of the wolf herself and saves her Grandma.”

Here’s our trailer for Little Red Riding Hood:

And here’s Tech With Kids’ full review for Rounds: Parker Penguin. Jinny writes:

“Presented with rich artwork full of round shapes and accompanied by music that varies when you touch the penguin, this is an intriguing way for kids to learn science […] Rounds: Parker Penguin is a great read for all children. Because this book app is so interactive, kids are drawn into the learning as they help Parker through each stage of his growth.”

Here’s our trailer for Rounds: Parker Penguin:

Thank you, Tech With Kids, for this kind recognition!

You can read Tech With Kids’ full list of the 10 Top Kindergarten Apps here. If you’d like to stay up to date with all of our app news (we have a couple of very exciting announcements to make soon…), you can sign up to our apps newsletter here.

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A letter-eating crocodile

Posted by Tom on Jul 21, 2014

Today’s guest blog is by Daniella Jamois, a class teacher at Charles Dickens Primary School who has been teaching in the early years for the past 10 years, on using Open Very Carefully with nursery-age children.

Yesterday we based our literacy session on Open Very Carefully.

The spread of Open Very Carefully that inspired the class

The children in nursery are so inspired by the text and have been drawn into analysing the letters, words and sentences. We found the book to be a brilliant tool to use for tackling early phonics. After reading part of the book, our children wrote letters, words and sentences to feed our enormous crocodile we had made earlier in the week.

Feeding words to a crocodile

We even filled a fridge with words for the croc to snack on later! (The children were excited to take their words and sentences home to show their parents so they are missing from the photos!)

The ‘word fridge’

We will be revisiting this text again and again as it is a wonderful way into the world of reading and books.

Thank you, Daniella, for sharing Open Very Carefully with your class! If you haven’t explored Open Very Carefully yourself yet, you can take a look inside the book below, or buy it online here.

Working with UNICEF on Baby, I Love You: a book for every newborn in Scotland

Posted by Kate on Jul 18, 2014

Though not quite as speedy as the three-weeks-from-idea-to-books-in-the-shops creation of our book based on the 2012 John Lewis Christmas ad, Baby, I Love You, the book we have just made for UNICEF, which was launched this month, had a pretty fast turn-around too.

Baby, I Love You is published by UNICEF and will be given to every newborn baby in Scotland by health visitors at their first home visit, spreading the UNICEF message, “You can’t spoil your baby with love”, and introducing families to the idea of sharing books with babies at the earliest possible stage in a baby’s life.

From my earliest involvement with Booktrust’s Bookstart programme, I’ve pursued opportunities to support the introduction of reading to babies whenever I possibly can, and we leapt at this project when we found out about it in discussion with UNICEF in December 2013, despite the fact that we knew that we had just six months to create, print (in China), ship and deliver tens of thousands of copies of a board book.

Though conversations started in the run-up to Christmas 2013, things only really got going in January, by which time Camilla had come up with a first draft of the text, and, crucially, the idea that the words should fit the tune we know as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, which is familiar to so many people throughout the world.

After a discussion about possible artwork styles – we considered photography too – we were really delighted to be able to sign up multi-award-winning Helen Stephens in February. She had to work to a tight brief in a short period to create something that combined what we thought would make the best book with the messages that UNICEF wanted the book to communicate and with real humanity and warmth. We think she rose to the challenge.

The final cover

To reinforce the idea that this could be either read aloud or sung to a baby – the parents among us at Nosy Crow remembered making up, or adapting, lots of rhymes and songs when we were rocking our own babies – we decided we could use our Stories Aloud audio innovation to deliver a sung and instrumental version of the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star melody.

I’m a Scot myself, and I was really keen that we should have a Scottish voice singing. After asking around, one of my more musical family members suggested that we consider Mairi Campbell. She agreed that she would sing, and, better still – and brilliantly appropriate given that parent-child relationships are what the book is all about – her teenage daughter, Ada Francis, would accompany her on the clĂ rsach. We recorded the music on a sunny March day in a studio in the countryside just outside Edinburgh.

Ada Francis and Mairi Campbell

Ewan McGregor, a UNICEF Ambassador, also recorded a read-aloud audio version (you can hear this in the video at the top of this post).

The book was printed and – nice touch this – each copy was individually wrapped in China and delivered to Scotland earlier this month.

We are really proud and happy to have been part of this project. Helen Fraser, when she was running Penguin, is supposed to have said that, for a book to be taken on by Penguin, it should make them proud, it should make them happy, or it should make them rich. As Meat Loaf said, two out of three ain’t bad.