Last year, we told you how Levar Burton, was working to bring Reading Rainbow back as an iPad app, and today was the day when it was officially launched. The app features an ever-growing library of books, activities, reviews, video segments and more.
The app’s interface is built around a series of floating islands, each based on a different genre. At present, the islands include “My Friends and Family,” “Animal Kingdom,” “Genius Academy” (science and math) and “Action Adventures & Magic Tales.” More subject islands will be added as the app continues to be built out. Burton told us that the team was looking to move away from the more traditional e-book shelf format, into something that made reading “more of an adventure,” much like the original program.
Click an island, and a you’ll get a sliding list of of books on that topic, with “Just for You” recommendations at the top. Below this are short videos on the subject that retain the “field trips” the series was known for, featuring kids out in the world and Burton himself. Each island has three or four videos at the moment, including a “Classic Reading Rainbow Video” from the original show, so you can compare and contrast haircuts from over the years.
The reading interface should prove familiar to anyone who has checked read a children’s book on an iPad before. You can can choose to read with or without narration (the book is aimed at three to nine-year-olds, so there are some pre-readers in the mix). You can either flip through the pages with a swipe or touch the arrow keys at the bottom. In order to harness the multimedia capabilities, the company has added animation to the pages, which can be accessed by tapping spinning sparkly circles. All in all, they’ve done a good job not overpowering the book format on that front — after all, this is a learning tool, not a movie viewer.
Books can be “checked out” five at a time. The app borrows the traditional library format (which, sadly, may be lost on some young readers), letting you return the books you’re finished with in a slot. The books you carry are stored in your Backpack, an aesthetically customizable digital carrying case.
The Reading Rainbow app is on the App Store right now. The app itself is free, but to access the full range of features, functions and fun, you’ll need to get a $10/month subscription. But for right now, you can get a whole year for $30.
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