For many parents, LeVar Burton has been synonymous with Reading Rainbow, a childrens’ show that helped pioneer a way to get kids excited about reading. Fast forward to 2012 and Burton is now reigniting that passion for reading for the next generation of digital kids.
Starting today, you can download the Reading Rainbow app for the iPad (free in iTunes), initially offering 150 books and 16 video field trips in an engaging and well-designed environment that could yet again help redefine how kids learn. Burton hosts the app, just like the TV show, greeting you and leading the 16 video field trips.
The app is geared toward kids ages 3-9, with content for pre-readers through elementary school. The books are easily grouped onto themed islands like Animal Kingdom, My Family and Genius Academy, and audio storytelling is available so kids can listen along. The book pages are designed with subtle animations so they don’t distract from the story, but make them a little more entertaining.
While I like that the Reading Rainbow app can create tailored reading recommendations based on the child’s age or their reading habits, the app also encourages parent participation with their kids while they’re reading. A parent dashboard allows you to track the progress of your child (sorry, you can’t track multiple kids in this version at launch, but it will be offered soon), and provides “Family Reading Time” discussion items, so you can talk with your child about what they’re reading and ask questions. There’s also a parent community with tips and resources for reading.
Reading Rainbow gives you free access to browse all the books and the ability to explore each island, plus download one book for free. A subscription is required to get access to all of the content, including the library of books, video field trips and the parent section to track your child’s progress.
The initial subscription cost will be $9.99 per month, or $29.99 for six months for one child, but a family plan is in development.