Teaching our oldest son how to read was a winding road. We shared a bit about our IEP process, how we dug into school choices for him, and how we set up an educational tablet to give him independence and gamify independent reading. Thanks to some amazing teachers and tools, he did eventually learn to read! However, he stuck strong to his claim that he “hates books.” Library time at school remained a problem. He couldn't envision the characters, and kept getting distracted. We asked around for recommendations to help get him really involved with a story, and a friend suggested augmented reality books.
Augmented reality books look just like regular books, but they also come with a downloadable app for your mobile device (Android or iOS) to walk kids through an interactive adventure on each page.
We're working with Little Hippo AR Books, and their newly-released series includes updated versions of my own favorites such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Velveteen Rabbit, Goldilocks and The Three Little Pigs. They're sold exclusively in participating Walmart stores, and they've been a HUGE hit in our house.
How Augmented Reality Books Work
No complicated accessories.
When I first heard the term “augmented reality books,” I was envisioning some complicated contraption like a headset, or perhaps a hologram, like those cheesy ones you see in 80's movies. The reality was much simpler – and a whole lot cooler! You simply start the app, point it at the cover of the book, and a little character pops up on-screen to guide you through activities on the pages such as character controls, coloring and elements that respond through touch.
Scan the little hippo character in the corner of the pages to keep track of your progress and “activate” new activities for different pages. It's totally self-explanatory and kid-friendly, and we didn't experience any glitches whatsoever.
One of the added bonuses of having books in the augmented reality format is that they're so interactive, siblings want to get in on the fun! Some Boy's reading vocabulary is average for an almost-7-year-old, and Sidekick's 5-year-old skillset is just enough that he can keep up and keep engaged with augmented reality books. I don't worry at all that we'll have the same reading struggles in the future that we've encountered in the past, because we're now familiar with the available resources and we have the advantage of built-in sibling support.
Encourages actual reading.
If you're afraid your kid might spend too much time with the interactive elements and not enough time reading, fear not! There isn't an activity on every single page, which helps encourage kids to read so they can keep up with what's going on in the app. When Some Boy first came to a page without a hippo in the corner, the character on his screen wandered around and didn't do much. When we were reading The Three Little Pigs, at one point, the pig said, “Gotta go, it's time to build my house.” Some Boy looked at me and asked where the pig was going, and I explained that he needed to read to find out.
Traditional book standards.
As a side note: I really like the illustrations in these books. When I taught 3rd grade, I got my hands on a lot of innovative educational products that had huge potential, but failed when it came to things like character appeal and build quality. If kids don't instinctively feel drawn to the pages, the texture, or if the characters look creepy, they absolutely will NOT engage and the whole project will fail. Little Hippo AR Books clearly understands that those things are paramount, and they've paid attention to all the details.
Involvement is rewarded.
If you have a kid who's really stubborn about reading, you can even use the app as a sort of reward system. “Read this book, and THEN I'll let you use my phone to unlock the magical pages.”
Works like a charm.
The release of these augmented reality books is perfectly-timed for a visit from the Easter bunny. Just sayin! Be sure to follow Little Hippo AR on Facebook and YouTube and then hop through to our Instagram page for your chance to win a complete set of Little Hippo AR Books and an RCA Voyager 7″ Tablet!