I have to admit, I’m not always a fan of ebooks as I much prefer to hold a printed text in my hand. There are some apps, however, that use the technology in such an engaging way that I've had to change my mind. Curious George and the Birthday Surprise is one such app. It offers interactive opportunities for both children and adults that make reading the story a different experience from reading just the printed book.
First, you should know that this app looks and sounds just like a Curious George book. The illustrations and text are taken from the original. With a plain white background, the illustrations and text are easy to see and appreciate. On
each page, there is one word that is highlighted with a larger font and brighter color. This “living word” literally comes to life through animation and sound effects when tapped. Each word is a key word in the story (i.e. George, cake, birthday, mixer, and so on) and their animations help deepen the child’s understanding of both the text and the word meaning. I appreciated that the only animation on each page was the living word, as sometimes children are distracted by the “bells and whistles” that multiple animations can bring. These animations added meaning, and thus were not a distraction.
One of my favorite parts of this app is that it offers the opportunity to record one’s voice reading the living word. I love the personalization that this can offer, not to mention the sheer awesomeness of a kid hearing his own voice in an app. Even better is the opportunity to play in the storybook theater after reading the story. The child can pick a background and then characters to play with. My son picked the kitchen setting and added George, a dog and the cake. Then he moved the characters around while recording his voice telling a story about the dog attacking the cake and George jumping on the dog’s tail. I appreciated that there was an opportunity to retell or expand the story using familiar settings and props.
Finally, I am always encouraging parents to sit down and interact with apps alongside their children. This app helps parents by having a Read & Talk option in which parents are given questions or comments to make on each page to start a discussion about the text. Some of the questions felt a little closed (i.e. “Look! That brown cake is almost the same color as Goerge!”) and I was worried that my son might not respond. However, when I shared that comment with him, he proceeded to name other brown things in the picture. Also in the settings section are some nice tips for parents about ways to engage your child while reading.
As with any high-quality app, there are various settings that allow the user to personalize the experience. The living word interactivity, music, sound and recording can be turned off. And the language can be set to English, French or Spanish. In addition, there are various choices for the parent and child icon used in the Read & Talk option.
Overall, this app is a high-quality app that offers experiences for children and parents to read, engage and play with literacy concepts in ways a printed book can't accomplish alone.
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 guest review was originally published by SmartAppsforKids.com on August 21, 2014. The author of this review, Emily B., is glad there is still at least one literary character out there from her childhood that she can still share with her kids. She is a bit baffled by some of the newer characters and cartoons her kids seem to enjoy. Smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner.
SmartAppsforKids is one of the top review sites for kids educational apps, games and books. They strive for meticulousness and honesty in their reviews, both positive and negative. Their goal is to be the most complete source for parents and educators looking for reliable info on an app before making a purchase.
All reviews are of the app, not the platform/device. Based originally on iPad versions. Minor technical details may vary.
Margret Rey/H. A. Rey
12 - 20 Minutes
Based on non-digital book: Yes
Allows Own Narration:
Uses Motion: No
Age: 3 - 5 +
English • French • Spanish •
Get your child ready to learn how to read with Curious George! Discover this innovative, shared reading experience engaging both child and parent. iRead With is a top learning and educational method for kids in Preschool to foster language development.
When the man with the yellow hat tells George that he is planning a surprise, of course George is curious. Before long George finds a hat, noisemakers, decorations, and games. It must be a birthday! But whose birthday is it? That’s the surprise!
Based on Margret and H.A. Rey’s children’s book and the hit PBS KIDS TV series, this animated story featuring Curious George is part of iRead With, a new read-aloud program created to foster language development and help preschoolers get ready to read.
iRead With animated stories invite parents to read to their child and are designed to make children talk and participate in the shared reading activity.
Parents follow a prompting system that encourages them to start a conversation with the child, by asking questions about the story and the world around us. Children become actively involved in the narrative and get stimulated in a multi-sensory level.
iRead With is based on the shared reading method developed in conjunction with McGill University Child Phonology Lab.
“Shared-reading is an ideal context for learning especially when parent and child talk together about the story. We see that parents and children take their time with iRead With books – enjoying the animations and engaging in rich conversations that support language and literacy learning.” – Susan Rvachew, Ph.D., S -LP, McGill University.