This fun digital storybook under the category "Education" is interactive in a way that not only makes reading fun, but reinforces spelling, reading and sight words. The 'lettermen' themselves are simple but engaging cartoon letters with hands and feet. They are very appealing to kids and have great expressions that match the words they are forming on each page. This tale has the 'lettermen' going on vacation or 'holiday' as they say in Europe. The narration is a British English speaker and is crisp and clear.
The Lettermen was a series of books created in the late 1980's by Roger Knights. This book was published in print in 1993. According to the information page in the book, "It was never intended to be an educational system or a challenge to any established teaching methods, but both parents and teachers have found that the simple Lettermen stories are useful in showing children how letters form words and words have meanings."
This book has simple settings (tap on the bottom to see them). Page turning 'hands' appear in the upper right and left corners of each page. Tap on the middle 'hand' on the top of any page to trigger the interactive game. The child then needs to touch and drag the lettermen into the right order to spell the word(s) from the page. The word itself appears on the screen as a guide. A small hand on the bottom in the middle lets you quickly exit the game, although it is sometimes hard to see.
The controls, while plentiful, are very touchy, especially on the iPad version, and my child and I both accidentally reset the game or re-started it several times, which could get quite annoying. When I downloaded and tried this app on my iPod touch, it felt a little more intuitive and was definitely easier to play. This touchiness cause a bit of annoyance, but was at least tolerable on the small screen.
I wanted to like the spelling game portion of the app - and I think I could love it, if only it worked properly on the iPad, in particular. It's a lot of fun to touch and drag the letters and watch them bounce, but they are very difficult to get to 'stick' in the right spot. Even when I had them in the right order for a moment, one would spring away from the others. They click into place if you keep trying and when the whole word or phrase has been spelled properly, it says "well done" (spelled out in 'lettermen'). On the iPad I also had a unique problem; it almost seemed cruel, but the bottom arrow in the middle of the page (to leave the game) was perfectly placed so that when you tried to click in the center letter of the word or phrase, the app would often reset to the story.
But don't give up on this app quite yet. Even without the game (which could be fixed in a future update), this storybook is perfectly delightful as a standalone app book. And it's particularly nice looking on the iPad, which shows off the fun lettermen and their crazy expressions much better that the small screen ever could. The illustrations are engaging, enhance reading comprehension and recognition of 'sight' words. So while it's free, I'd suggest downloading it and putting it on both devices. And watch for an update to the game before expecting your little one to master it.
[There are six apps currently available in this digital series and the youtube video below is of The Lettermen go to a party on iPad.]
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
SN Squared Limited
12 - 20 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 3 - 6 +
The Lettermen go on holiday in this tale about anthropomorphized letter-guys. First they must SIT on their suitcase to get it closed. Then they WAIT at the train station. When the train comes they say, "OFF WE GO!" Upon arriving at the beach they DIG to build a sand castle, which they then CLIMB to put a flag on top. But the tide comes in very quickly and they must HOLD ON to the sides of the sand castle before a BOAT comes to rescue them (they spell HELP in the background). There are too many lettermen in the boat, though, and it begins to SINK. Thankfully all the lettermen can SWIM, except for one, an "O". A kind fisherman arrives to SAVE him, so now they are all safe and DRY. They fall asleep in the sun and get so much sun they turn RED. When their holiday is over they yawn from being so TIRED as they wait for their train home. While they wait, they get ice cream and LICK it until they decide to do one last thing, get MORE ice cream, of course!
[Words above in caps are also part of the spelling activity in the book and represent the sight word that is the focus of that page.]