Common Sense Review
Updated June 2013

Storypanda Books -- Read, Create, Share Kids Stories

Kids put their own spin on stories in this inventive storybook app
Common Sense Rating 3
  • The well-organized main page is split into the sections Stories for Me to Read, My Stories, and Stories from Friends.
  • Kids have options, and can change what happens next.
  • Wherever kids see a pencil icon, they can make a change.
  • There are numerous ways to share tailored stories.
  • In-app purchases include more books, as well as more character options.
Pros
By adapting the stories in a one-of-a-kind way, kids can learn more about storytelling and basic narrative structure.
Cons
There are no audio instructions, and there's only one free book; more diversity among character selections would be a positive addition.
Bottom Line
Top-quality books in a unique edit-the-story format; just be ready for in-app purchases.
Dana Villamagna
Common Sense Reviewer
Classroom teacher
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 4

Kids will find it fun to change both the visual and written portions of stories. The story options are beautifully illustrated and imaginative, which makes this an engaging storybook-reading and storytelling experience.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer? 3

Kids are encouraged to interact with the stories, changing the characters, backgrounds, or even the text. It's possible for kids to share their adaptations socially, and they might get feedback from people who read their creative tales.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students? 2

Written instructions and icons that indicate interactivity are clear. Still, there aren't audio instructions, nor are there any extra kid-lock protections -- beyond what's provided in the App Store -- to prevent in-app purchases.

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How Can Teachers Use It?

Teachers can use Storypanda Books to help kids get a sense of the choices writers make during the story-building process. Kids can also learn about and develop their collaboration skills. When reading a story for the first time, teachers may want to read the story straight through, with all content in its original state. Then, they can work through the same story as a class-wide exercise, with individual students making choices about characters, scenes, and sentence changes along the way. When finished, it would be great to read the story aloud -- kids can discover how the changes affected the overall story.

Or, students in a 1:1 program could begin working on the same story individually, then share and compare how their stories differ in the end. In either scenario, discuss how collaboration can move storylines in new ways, and how small tweaks to a story can change the overall narrative quite a bit.

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What's It Like?

Storypanda Books -- Read, Create, Share Kids Stories is a storybook app that encourages kids to interact with digital books by changing the characters and scenes. Kids (or a teacher) can also type their own additions to these high-quality storybooks, some of which are by well-known authors. This app comes pre-loaded with one free, adaptable story (at the time of this review, it's The Adventures of Anna and Dad); all others must be purchased.

In the app, as kids (or adults) read each page of the story, they can tap a little pencil icon to make more options appear. For example, a boy character can be changed to a girl. Other pages prompt kids to provide answers that are then incorporated into the story. When kids complete a story they can share it with others via social networks and/or save it to the iPad.

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Is It Good For Learning?

There's something extra-engaging for kids when they can change the storylines of stories created by adults (think: Mad Libs, or choose-your-own-adventure stories). In Storypanda Books, kids get to ask questions and make decisions, such as: "How would I like that page to look?" "I'd rather have the character be a girl." "Let's feed them pizza!" As kids progress through a story, they'll practice reading (or listening) in addition to developing storytelling skills. If they change a character from a boy to a girl, they'll need to change the pronouns on subsequent pages to agree with this change. As they do so, they learning editing skills and story consistency.

However, Storypanda's free fun is limited to one story, unless you're willing to pay for more storybooks via in-app purchase. Also, some of the books lack options for choosing characters of different skin tones and ethnicities. If used as a student-driven activity, teachers may want to help younger students interpret the texts and narratives as they make changes. Overall, Storypanda Books can be a way to empower kids to put their own spin on stories.

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See how teachers are using Storypanda Books -- Read, Create, Share Kids Stories