Available in the App Store

[appimg 509944094]

In my opinion, reading is the best foundation to build language skills on. It looks like the folks at Wrinkled Pants agree. They’ve produced a wonderful series of educational apps called My World! Readers. This week I had a chance to review Are Squirrels Smart, or What?, the latest addition to the lineup, with my kids. This app uses a brief and highly entertaining story to propel language lessons, and it really delivers.

First, there’s the story itself, staring a savvy gray squirrel and his mission to steal some tasty compost vegetable scraps. The story is interactive, with blue-colored words that bring up illustrations and story illustrations. Also, as children read the story, or you read it with them, you can touch any word to add it to your child’s Nut Basket for reviewing later.

At any point during the story, kids can easily access a series of word activities, starring the words from the Are Squirrels Smart, or What? story. There’s a rhyming words game, long and short vowel sound games, a word recognition game and another recognition game with photo representation matching. And, of course, there’s always an option to review the words in the Nut Basket.

I think the interface that adds words to the Nut Basket is almost too easy. I reviewed this app with a 4-year-old (the app might be better fit to a slightly older audience, although we still enjoyed the story), and he thought it was just fun to hear the words aloud. We ended up with some words in our Nut Basket that didn’t really need to be reviewed, like “a” and “and.” The app could use an option to edit the basket. Although, we did find out that if you exit the app and force close it your progress is lost and you must build a Nut Basket list all over again. I’m not a fan of either extreme, and found myself wishing for an option to add different children profiles or at least a way to save the words a child had questions about.

Otherwise, I was a big fan of the app’s creative approach to language practice, and think it’s smart enough to appeal to a wide range of users. I do wish the price tag was a bit more moderate (say, $2.99 instead of $4.99). However, the app is entirely kid-friendly, with no outside links or inappropriate ads, which I applaud.

Bottom line

Are Squirrels Smart, or What? is a great way to introduce new words and reinforce language learning skills, although it could use a slightly lower price and a few additional features.

My Word! Reader – Are Squirrels Smart, or What? is a ground-breaking app for the iPad based on sound educational and literacy theory that is designed to improve literacy skills in underachieving students. This app will be an essential tool for literacy learning for education and home markets. Simple to use, but sophisticated in design, it incorporates word analysis, phonics, writing skills, word recognition, comprehension and spelling in a series of dynamic, engaging, and delightful “word games” that are rooted in the high-interest, but easy-to-read story, Are Squirrels Smart, or What?

“Are Squirrels Smart, or What? is the third in the My Word! Reader series. Word games in this app include practice with rhyming words; short and long vowel sounds; spelling; writing exercises; vocabulary building. As students engage in the word games, they practice and review word analysis skills, thus building competence in learning the mysteries of decoding new words.

“Are Squirrels Smart, or What? i Regular Price: $4.99