Saturday, May 17, 2014

FarFaria, a great app for early readers

I was invited by FarFaria to try out their app. To facilitate this review, they gifted me a subscription to try it out for a few month.  My daughter is in first grade and her class has been focused on learning to read this school year.  My husband and I have been supporting the lessons at school by reading with her or reading to her every night. We have a nice collection of traditional paper books, as well as some electronic books on the iPad. So I was happy to take a look at FarFaria's offering because we welcome any additional access to books at her reading level.

What's included with the App

We downloaded the app with ease using search to find it in the iTunes store.  You can use the free version of the app getting access to one story per day. If you purchase the monthly subscription for $3.99, you get unlimited access to over 700 stories and new ones are added each week. You can also opt for the annual subscription for $39.99.

 How Does it Work

It is skillfully designed with both images and words which enables toddlers and the earliest readers navigate around and explore the app. The stories are organized by categories such as Adventure Island, Animal Kingdom, Fairytale Forest, Mt. Make Believe, Classics Grove, Bedtime Bluffs, Good Land, etc.  When you tap to enter a grouping, you can then view the stores alphabetically, by reading level, newest or most popular.  We found that they have a nice choice of stories for reading levels in each grouping.  Ther are four different reading levels.

FarFaria Mt Make Beleive image

Once you select a book,you get 3 choices: Auto Play, Read to Me, and Read Myself.  When we selected the level one books, I had my daughter read those aloud.  Because she is currently a level 2 reader, her teacher suggested we have her re-read easier books to help improve her confidence reading.  We found that the level two and three books give her more of a challenge with words that might be new to her.  With books at a higher level, she can choose the "Read To Me" options.  This option highlights the words as the reader reads the word aloud so early readers can get exposure to more and more new words.

FarFaria app, book selection image

When you mark a book a favorite, it downloads a copy to the local device meaning you can use it in places where you don't have Internet access. We found this feature very useful on a recent road trip.  Our daughter was in the backseat by herself and she could open the app, find her favorite stories and select to have them read to her.  With headphones plugged into the iPad, this made for a peaceful trip for all of us.

The Book Selection

Our first night with the app, my daughter chose to read a title called the "Susie and the Snot Monster", which was about a little girl fighting off a cold. That same night we moved on to find many other titles we enjoyed. Over the past few weeks, we read some classics, some fairy tales, and some animal stories.  The category of "Preschool Playground" looks to contain titles that are now too simple for my daughter, but they are just the types of books we read with her when she was younger.  Families with 2 or more kids at different reading levels can find books at the right level for each one.  With so many titles to choose from, there really is something for everyone.

While researching the app, I learned that the stories are independently sourced and illustrated which is why you won't find the same popular children's stories that you'd find at your local bookstore.  The classics section contains many stories made popular by Disney that many children enjoy, but here they are presented in traditional fashion.  A lesson I learned the hard way is that you need to be careful with classic titles.  We have a hardback book of classics and one night I was reading the little red riding hood to my then preschool aged daughter, I realized halfway through that it was a version of the story where the wolf eats Grandma and the woodsman kills the wolf and cuts Grandma out of its belly. Yea, a bit much for the preschool set.  So, I checked this app and was pleased to find a G rated version of the story where Grandma had been rescued by the woodsman from the closet. Whew- much easier than modifying the story on the fly.

My take

Our daughter is an avid iPad user, so she is very comfortable navigating around various apps.  We have purchased several different types of iPad books for her such as fully interactive stories as well as several classics that were nicely illustrated. While those titles were well done, they cost $3.99-$5.99 per title and she quickly grew tired of them.  I like how this app gives you access to so many stories for one flat subscription fee.

In the evening, we welcome the pop up reminder, "Gather Round FarFarians,..." reminding us that it's story time.  In the few weeks we've been playing with it, we all (my husband, my daughter and I) enjoy using it and I think it is well worth the monthly subscription fee.  They recommend the app with kids 2-9 and I think that their recommendation is right on.  While my 7 year old enjoys chapter books, she isn't ready yet to read them on her own.  These titles are easy to match with her reading level.

Try FarFaria

iPad users can Download from iTunes and Android users can download from Google Play. The free version allows you to read one story every day for free with no obligation to pay. FarFaria is also sponsoring a giveaway which will be hosted here on Uniform Mom beginning on May 18th, 2014.  Two winners will each will receive a 3 month membership to FarFaria. (ARV $11.97)  Please check back to enter to win a 3 month subscription to FarFaria for you and your child to enjoy.

You can also connect with FarFaria online at their website or via Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

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