By: Carisa Kluver
The Digital Media Diet
Young readers will love learning with Miles and Miles of Reptiles (Dr. Seuss/Cat in the Hat) by Oceanhouse Media. This non-fiction title, published first in print in 2009, was created to give children ages 5-8 the chance to explore the history and diversity of the reptile world, with a familiar tour guide, The Cat in the Hat. The learning library series was created in the late 1990’s by Random House with a talented team of illustrators, writers & educators, who mimic Seuss’s rhyming verse and quirky illustrations beautifully.
And now the Cat-in-the-Hat Learning Library books are available as enhanced books, with the help of Oceanhouse Media. Featuring light animation and interactivity along with great background music and sound effects, these titles offer a cutting-edge approach to learning about a list of topics frequently covered in elementary school science classrooms. Tap any bold word for a definition and tapping Thing 1 & Thing 2 usually gives additional facts about the topic. You can also record your own narration. Not many non-fiction titles can engage such early readers, but The Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library stands out in both print and digital. Familiar faces like Dick & Sally, along with Thing 1 & Thing 2, take young readers on a series of nearly twenty unforgettable adventures with a range of popular science topics, like outer space and dinosaurs.
In the app, interactive elements can sometimes over shadow comprehension for distractible young readers, but this is more than balanced out by a wealth of nicely presented educational content. Additional features added to the app include word-by-word highlighting, touch-to-hear text and images that are named when tapped. If an image is also represented in the corresponding text, that word lights up as well, reinforcing word recognition. For those familiar with other Seuss omBooks, this series is a little different. Each app has arrow instead of swipe-style page turning and also includes a home button but no ‘auto-play’ setting. Nice navigation with a thumbnail page guide and intuitive settings round out these well-made digital books. Links to leave the app, but are thoughtfully hidden behind a ‘parental gate’ that requires fluent reading.
Overall, this series is as fun as it is educational, pairing animated and interactive ‘pop-up’ style elements with high-quality science content. Some of the interactivity is just for fun, rather than story-related, but all of it keeps kids engaged. When sharing these titles in my child’s classroom, the Cat-in-the-Hat Learning Library apps have been the most often re-requested. Children will be drawn in by their familiarity with the characters and then entranced by the extraordinary animal world. A great introduction for young scientists to the herpetology (the branch of zoology that studies amphibians and reptiles).