PhotoTales by Tho Pham is an app for iOS which allows your family to customize a story with your photos and images based on the text provided. For the purposes of this review, I looked at “A Happy Day in the Zoo” which I customized to be about a recent family trip to the zoo using included images and my own personal photos to make the story more interesting and help to engage my son. The first time we created the story, my son and I did it together using photos from my iPhone as well as those I stored on our Bevy to pull into the book. We completed it together and then saved it off to our computer. The second time I did the same book, I was planning a trip so I re-did the book and left it to be read at bedtime. Once you have created the story you “own it” and can restore it by tapping on it within the app.
The app allows you to change key words in a story to personalize it which range from name to specific word phrases. In addition you can change the background color, crop photos, draw on photos and stamp icons as well as change font, size and color. The stories are available in English, Chinese, Hindustani, Spanish, Russian, German, Bengali, Portuguese, Malay-Indonesian, French, and Japanese. In the “Create Your Story” you can actually use any of the languages in your Apple Device to write the story so you are not constrained to the traditional language stories. A story is 12 pages and every page has a caption and space for up to three photos which can include images, drawings or more. New images can be taken with your camera on your iPhone, in my case imported from another source to the camera roll or you can draw them into the story. Each option was easy to use and navigate and my son seemed equally comfortable when we picked items either from the camera roll, image library or creating his own. He even drew a few pictures on paper which we took photos off with my iPhone for the story. The app developer Tho Pham built it after his children were looking for a creative way to express their stories.
I loved the ability to be creative with the app. I also loved that my son and I could use photos and images to illustrate the story, so even though there were words on the page he might not know we could create cues for him to understand what the text said and ultimately connect the words to the images. My son is an emerging reader, and at times when he is given the choice between a picture book and a chapter book he will choose the picture book simply because of the visual cues of the story. The app can be expanded to additional titles via in-app purchases, but using the story I had I was able to provide a great story for my son and I to work on together as well as for me to send to him while away.
I also liked that you could change the sentence structure which meant you could make the story harder or easier – and with the images make it harder or easier for them to get clues from the images. I actually just purchased the Make your Own story so I can make up a story for my son about an upcoming trip – this could also be used as a social story or anything that you want which is not already covered in the app. I am looking forward to more broadly sharing my son’s stories with my family and saving them in PDF format for when he is bigger and a better reader to show him progress over time. I really enjoyed sitting with him to create the Zoo story and personalizing it to his specific level of reading. I even personalized one of the stories with my son’s weekly spelling words to help reinforce the words during a bedtime story.
In terms of enhancements, I’d like to see an option for narration. I realize that it is expensive to include this feature within an app, however, for parents who might be away or travelling I think that they would appreciate it a lot which could translate to higher sales. It would also be great if the developer were to create a version where several of the stories were unlocked upon download so that you could complete a few stories at a time. The parental gate for the app is a random math problem – some of which my son could answer even in first grade. I would like to see the gate strengthened especially since additional books are for purchase and I wouldn’t want kids to get beyond that by mistake. It would also be nice if there was an easier way to login to the app – I forgot my password and it was a bit cumbersome for me to reset it.
Overall, this is a fun book which brings personalized reading to a fun new level. Kids can illustrate the books with their parents to help understand reading as well as parents making them for kids. I am looking forward to more broadly sharing my son’s stories with my family and saving them in PDF format for when he is bigger and a better reader to show him progress over time.
This app has been thoroughly evaluated by our staff. Please click on the 'star ratings' tab above, to see how it fared in all nine of our rating categories. See synopsis tab for more details about the storyline.
This review was originally published by TheiMums.com on January 30, 2016. The iMums – Amanda, Alison, Mary and Grace – are four mothers from different parts of the world dedicated to educating parents about the best digital stories, educational apps, fun games and technology products available for their children.
Founded in August 2011, the four iMums have 11 kids among them ranging in age from 1 to 17 and bring a global perspective to their app reviews. The original iMum Amanda being from Australia, Alison is in America, Grace is from Singapore and Mary is from the UK but is currently living in America.
Alison, the American iMum is from Illinois. She lives there with her son and husband. In their spare time, they enjoy playing outside, enjoying nature and of course testing apps and fantastic products on their devices. NOTE: A fee was received to expedite this review to the top of our waiting list but this payment has not influenced the objectivity of the review and all opinions have been offered honestly.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
8 - 12 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: No
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 4 - 8 +
English • French • Spanish •German •Japanese •
Photo Tales is a reading app that lets your family create memories with your kids through customizing stories the way you want it to promote creativity and the love of reading.
An innovative reading app that uses personal photos set to a story that can be modified to make reading fun and enjoyable. Imagine being able to create personalized stories by modifying the set story to suite your own personal taste and personal photos as the story illustration. The stories and photos can be changed each time so you are not stuck reading the same story time and time again. Every child is different, so how awesome is it to be able to cater to each child's uniqueness with one app!
A variety of stories are available to entertain and promote creativity and imagination.
"A Happy Birthday" - Create a story about that special day that happens once a year.
"A Happy Morning" - A story about how great waking up in the morning can be to the rest of the day.
"A Happy Day at the Zoo" - This is a story about the adventure that only a trip to the zoo brings.
"My Favorite Shoes" - A story about looking for your favorite shoes that is lost in the house.
"A Happy Summer Vacation" - This is the story about that magical time called "Summer Vacation."
"Create Your Story" - Create your own amazing story!
- Ability to take photos with the device camera or use photos from the photo album.
- Change key words in the set story to personalize the story.
- Change the background color of the story.
- Photo cropping feature.
- Stamp icons for your stories.
- Ability to draw on the photos and stamp icons.
- Text font, size, and color can be changed.
- Option to change languages for the 5 written stories in English, Chinese, Hindustani, Spanish, Russian, German, Bengali, Portuguese, Malay-Indonesian, French, and Japanese.
- "Create Your Story" can be written in any of the many languages available on the Apple device (just select the languages in the "Device Settings Keyboard" and then choose the "globe" icon in the Photo Tales app keyboard.
- Ability to save the stories on the device or email the story to family and friends.