I try to be a good mother. I teach my kids to wash their hands, be polite and not act like bullies. I also teach them a very important lesson that many kids seem to have never been taught: The world doesn’t revolve around you, buddy.
But let’s face it — sometimes it’s nice to feel like, even for one brief, shining moment, that it is all about us. And kids love it when they have something personalized just for them. It gives them a feeling of ownership, and it captures their attention.
Knowing this, I was really excited to try out a new line of kids’ books from JibJab. You know JibJab, right? That’s the hilarious company that makes those electronic greeting cards, the ones where you can add your face to the dancing characters and send it to all your friends so they can laugh at you. Don’t act like you’ve never Elfed Yourself — you know you have.
Well now JibJab has created JibJab Jr. This is a fantastic ebook concept for the iPad. Instead of plugging your boss’ face into a turkey, you plug your child’s face into the main character of a book. And suddenly, your kid becomes the star of his very own personalized story!
This app is super easy to use. It comes with one free book — a cute story about a kid who makes a ginormous pizza. Once you select this story, you’re prompted to create either a boy or girl character.
Then comes the fun part — adding your photo. You can choose a photo from your library, or you can connect to your Facebook account and choose a photo from one of your albums.
Once you’ve picked a shot, you simply rotate and resize to make your child’s face fit into the character’s face. You type in your kid’s name, and choose a skin tone for your character. Then just hit “Go!,” and your animated story begins!
Of course, you can switch out characters as often as you like, so multiple children can be the star of each story. I also love how the app saves your characters. This means you don’t have to go in and choose a new picture every time you start a new book. You simply swipe to choose the photo you want.
The stories we’ve tried have been on a nice reading level for Jack, who is in 2nd grade, but slightly behind in his reading skills. There are enough big words to challenge him (he learned “expertise” from one of the books, and it’s his new favorite word), but the reading level isn’t so difficult that it frustrates him. Jack has to read for at least 20 minutes a day as part of his homework, and at this point in the school year, this has been getting a little tiresome for him. These JibJab Jr. books have been great for reinvigorating his love of reading. He’s now excited to sit down and read to his brother, and he’s even great at choosing and resizing his own pictures. (FYI to my Facebook friends — he chooses his pictures from my albums, so you may or may not have starred in a book. And I may or may not have laughed my butt off at you scuba diving with a shark.)
But what’s surprised me is how Finn is also starting to read along on his own. I think this is because the animation helps his comprehension skills. With a regular book, the pictures do help tell the story to a degree. But seeing the characters and other aspects of the story actually move — literally seeing the action progress — adds a new layer of understanding and excitement for emerging readers.
The only improvement I’d like to see would be multiple characters in a story. I’d love to have a book where my boys could interact with each other in the story, or where families or groups of friends could have their own adventures. Hmm, perhaps they should consider a Freaky Perfect Family series! Jack and Finn both mentioned that they’d like the app to have some sound. They’ve read other ebooks that had either background music or ambient sounds that matched the stories, and I think they missed that a bit.
From a technical standpoint, the app has always worked well for me. It even worked well through the iOS5 update, but it seems there might have been problems for some. However, JibJab Jr. quickly pushed out an update that fixed any quirks. I dig an app company that provides a bug-free product and regular service and updates.
The JibJab Jr. app itself is free, and as I mentioned, it comes with one free book. Subsequent titles are $7.99 each. But they also offer a subscription plan. For $3.99 a month, you get one new book each month, and any more titles you chose to buy are only $3.99 each, instead of full price. I think this is a great deal.
I wholeheartedly recommend the JibJab Jr. ebook app. It’s a great educational tool for kids. But beyond that, it creates lots of laughs and smiles. JibJab not only makes reading fun, it also makes your child the center of the universe for a moment. And that’s a really awesome thing.
While I did not receive compensation for this post, JibJab Jr. did give me an iTunes credit to purchase an additional title. All opinions are my own.