Best apps

Pic Collage for Kids (iOS)

Pic Collage for Kids is the digital version of the age-old favourite. It can be used to create a collage that tells a story or to showcase children’s research. Collages made in the app can be shared with Blogger or combined with ThingLink . And it gets the thumbs up from Kia Ata Mai Educational Trust for use in Māori medium. Use the ‘for kids’ version. An alternative for Android is Photo Grid. Free.

Seesaw: The Learning Journal (iOS and Android)

Russell Street School’s pupils and teachers are excited about this multimedia journal app. It’s a student-driven digital portfolio that students use to document what they’re learning. It’s simple, but powerful, and allows children to create an organised, digital portfolio using photos, videos, drawing, text notes and links. Free for teachers and students, but not parents.

The value of graphic novels

We called them comics. The modern term is graphic novels. Whatever the term is graphic novels. Whatever the name though they are an increasingly valuable tool in getting children on the ladder to literacy.

They are mostly abridged versions of much longer books, and therefore attractive to less able readers. They have more pick-up appeal and tell the story succinctly to an audience who are used to their entertainment being readily accessible. It would be a mistake though to think of them as an inferior genre of long form literature. The skill of interpreting and decoding visual storytelling, combined with reading the accompanying text, is often more complex than straight reading, and very much a part of modern communication.

Some fully visual books, notably those of Australians Shaun Tan and Jeannie Baker, tell extremely complex and multi-layered stories that demand patience and intelligence and can take longer to read than if they had included text.

Often they are best used in teacher-led discussions that can bring much greater levels of understanding. Baker’s conservation-based Window and Belonging are great discussion starters on the theme of sustainability, and her book Mirror and Tan’s stunning classic The Arrival deal with the human side of the refugee issue.

Combined with traditional reading and research, and guided use of internet sources, they lead to our children being more fully informed. With their easy grasp of modern media and technology it is difficult to sustain the argument that today’s children are somehow less literate than previous generations, especially as often those who disparage them are still battling with the SKY remote.

John McIntyre is a children’s bookseller and commentator: childbkwgtn@xtra.co.nz.

 

Rock your own style

Whose beak is this?

Gillian Candler & Fraser Williamson

Guess the identity of 11 iconic New Zealand birds from pictures of their beaks. The beautiful images give clues to how the birds have adapted to the foods they eat. 3+

Lily Max: Satin, Scissors, Frock

Jane Bloomfield

Lily Max likes to create and wear crazy clothes: a debut novel that inspires children to “not to be afraid to rock their own style”. 8+

The Bold Ship Phenomenal

Sarah Johnson

Malachi longs for adventure, and disappointed that his Dad won’t take him camping as promised, he stows away in a classmate’s father’s truck. 9+

Enemy camp

David Hill

Award-winning writer brings to life dramatic events at the Wairarapa camp where in 1942 Japanese prisoners of war clashed with guards. Told through the eyes of a guard’s son. 10+