In the early days of our Libros y Cuentos bilingual storytime, I would try and integrate some language apps into the program. With a small group, apps such as Bunny Fun: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes fit well with our Parts of the Body lesson. At the time it was a challenge to discover usable apps for storytime that were also good enough to recommend to parents. Thankfully developers have produced more options for kids interested in language learning via a tablet. Below are apps that are well designed, easy to navigate, and full of interactive ways to grasp definitions, pronunciation, and even a new alphabet are key.
This free game-based app takes players on a journey around China with Pei Pei the Panda. The digital curriculum includes word games, Chinese character tracing, and a badge earning option for tracking progress. Kids will learn a total of 240 Mandarin words, and will have English prompts for every word learned. A paid premium version is available for more progressive lessons.
Recognizable illustrations will appeal to children learning their first words in English, Spanish, French, and German. Designed as a 3D pop-up book, each page features themed lessons with 4 to 5 objects introducing new words. The ease of use and interactivity makes this a great choice for preschoolers. It also has the potential to work well during storytime.
Possibly one of the most entertaining and popular series of apps in our children’s room, Originator Inc. has introduced a new Spanish language offering, with hopefully more languages on the horizon. A cast of monster characters reinforces pronunciation, spelling, and new definitions in a hilarious and engaging way. Two modes are available for total Spanish immersion, as well as English translation. It’s hard to believe that the Endless Spanish app is free!
A KAPi Award winner, the key to this app is the speech recognition tool similar to the one used in their core language learning software. Emphasizes pronunciation for young speakers which determines the rewards for tracking progress. The parenting corner allows adults to move beyond single-syllable words to more advanced vocabulary, as well as checking pronunciation accuracy. Yet another free app from a reputable global language-learning company.
Recommended by both Apple and USA Today, this Japanese language app is well-designed, and complex enough for both older kids and adults to enjoy. Over 50 lessons to introduce vocabulary visually, highlighting both Kana and Kanji characters. The voice pronunciation is clear enough to reinforce sounds for beginners. Learners are prompted to move up in levels by playing a variety of fun interactive games based on themed lessons. MindSnacks also offers apps to teach Italian, Spanish, French, German, Mandarin, and Portuguese.
These apps are just a few suggestions for providing additional language-learning resources to young patrons. Load them up on your iPads, or include them as digital recommendations for your library’s website.
Claire Moore is a member of the Digital Content Task Force. She is also Head of Children and Teen Services at Darien Library in Connecticut. You can reach Claire at email@example.com.
Visit the Digital Media Resources page to find out more about navigating your way through the evolving digital landscape.