Kindle Fire Santa App Great For Parents

Amazon has a habit of releasing some very functional mobile apps that subtly encourage customers to use their site more often.  Of course the fact that they do this by making these apps into genuinely useful ways to save money makes it rather hard to fault them on it.  The most recent of these, and the first one to be released specifically for owners of the new Kindle Fire, is the completely free Amazon Santa app.

At the most basic level, it’s nothing more than a pleasantly festive holiday wallpaper thrown across an wishlist building application.  It provides the user with a few categories – Music, Books, Video Games, Toys & Games, Movies & TV, Everything Else – to flip through, which can be run through endlessly (or close enough based on my experimenting and the claim of over 500,000 listed products).  Presumably these are sorted out based on current popularity, since the product page notes that dynamic updating is a part of the experience.

The reason I consider this one worth recommending, despite having a fairly narrow range of application, is the appeal to children for the benefit of parents.  The Amazon Santa app lets each kid pick out their own favorites in a separate wish list, then send it off to Santa.  While I can’t necessarily vouch for anything that is happening in the North Pole, I can definitely confirm that Amazon will send along some notice to the Kindle Fire owner’s registered email account.  This includes a short list of selections from the list, a link to the full list, and other relavent information.

It’s worth noting at this point that the company is quick to explain how their privacy applies to kids.  Specifically, that no information is in any way linked to the individual identity of a child on Amazon’s part.  Also, that it is preferred for parents to handle all naming of wish lists and registration of accounts under their own names.  While it is always tricky to market anything toward children in a manner that might pass on important information, in this case it would be difficult to think of Amazon picking up anything unless a parent goes out of their way to put a real name on the related list.

Now, I’ll openly add the disclaimer that I do not personally have children, nor do I do any particularly intensive shopping for the ones I am related to.  That aside, the parents I know were quite fond of the idea and their children (all ages 5-12) had no trouble using the app.  I’m told that at least one friend now has trouble retrieving her Kindle as a result, but that’s a completely unrelated problem

The reviews among the broader audience are generally positive, 4 Stars at the time I’m writing this, but there are a couple complaints.  There isn’t sorting, nor can you really narrow down what you want to look at beyond the main categories.  You also will not be able to make use of the app unless you happen to have a Kindle Fire or an iPad.  Definitely important things to note, but if you have the opportunity I would definitely give this one a try.  The value is great, especially considering the price.

Kindle Book Recommendations: Children’s Books

Oddly enough, one of the prerequisites for blogging about the Kindle isn’t a strong rapport with young people.  I’ll admit right off the bat that I don’t know much about kids.  They’re small and high pitched and seem to enjoy climbing on things?  The few I know also seem to really like dogs.  We have that in common!  Anyway, while my practical knowledge of children is lacking I have been encouraged recently, in light of the Harry Potter eBook possibility, to look into some of the children’s lit that is available for the Kindle.  It turns out there is a fair selection out there.

The Giver – Lois Lowry

Chances are good you’ll recognize this one.  The Giver is a classic, after all.  It’s a story about a seemingly “perfect” society where everything is carefully controlled.  Population is limited, careers are carefully selected well in advance for children, there is no crime, no drama, and neither old age nor imperfection have any real place in it.  Naturally this isn’t quite the paradise it seems at a glance.

It’s a simple but powerful book that many people definitely remember fondly with good reason.  Addresses social issues, quite well in an engrossing kind of way that surely fits the educational requirement many parents have for their kids’ reading.

The Kindle Edition is $6.64

The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins

I was actually rather shocked to find out that this book/series was for children, given all the adults I heard raving about it.  The premise is a cross between Death Race, Battle Royale, and the Survivor Reality TV show.  While it is a bit violent, I’d say it’s definitely less shocking than your average PG-13 movie, so I doubt there will be many parental concerns overall.

The response to this book, the first in a trilogy, has been overwhelmingly positive in pretty much every age group.  The characters are strong and believable.  The plot deals with interesting, if not entirely original social issues.  There’s really nothing at all that I could find to complain about.

The Kindle Edition is $5.00

The Red Pyramid – Rick Riordan

This is the first book in the second series that Riordan has come up with so far.  The first, the Percy Jackson series, you’ve probably heard of because of the movie that came out of it if nothing else. This series is based on a similar concept, but focused on Egyptian mythology rather than Greek.  The story is presented through the eyes of a brother and sister in the frame of a transcript of the story.  It works to provide a fairly unique multi-view perspective as he switches between the siblings, and allows for some variation in the narrative voice that keeps it interesting.

There is a lot more information presented in this book than in the Percy Jackson series.  It is definitely bigger on educating the reader.  This could be because Riordan simply thought it was more interesting to talk about or because he assumed that there was a greater familiarity that you could assume when dealing with Greek mythology, but either way it fits.

The Kindle Edition is $9.39

New Math Learning Tools Available for the Kindle

With the addition of games and puzzles, the Kindle has become much more than an e-reader.  Now, you can use the Kindle as a means to learn math as well.

Digi Ronin Games has introduced Flash Cards: Basic Math for Kids and Flash Cards: Fractions for Kids. Digi Ronin Games is a highly interactive game studio that has worked with major companies such as Disney and Nickelodeon.  It is based in the Research Triangle Park in Raleigh, NC.  More information about their company and what awesome content they are creating for the Kindle can be found here

For the Basic Math learning tool, kids can brush up on their addition, subtraction and multiplication skills.  There are five difficulty levels that correlate with common mathematical concepts.  Interestingly enough, children might be using the Kindle for math even before they can read well enough to use it for reading!

The Basic Math tool is a new and exciting way to learn math.  This alone, should entice more children to want to learn, and to become more familiar with the Kindle.  In the past, the e-reader has primarily targeted adults, but I’ve seen more and more children’s books become available.  Both applications can be used as a study guide and gives quality feedback for correct and incorrect answers.

The Fractions learning tool for Kindle is laid out the same way as the Basic Math tool and has four levels of difficulty.  The simple fractions such as ½ are in a lower difficulty level, and the more complex fractions such as 3/7 belong to the more difficult levels.

Both Basic Math and Fractions were release this week, so there aren’t any reviews yet.  I am interested to see how well the Kindle does as an interactive tool.  By that I mean, how it does with filling in blanks for answers, etc.  I hope to see the Kindle and Kindle DX continue to take on a much larger role in education for all ages.

Kindle for Children: A Whole New World

Some children are voracious readers.  They look beyond the vast size of the Harry Potter or Twilight series and focus on the stories themselves.  They see reading as an adventure, and the bigger the book, the bigger the accomplishment.  Other children are reluctant readers.  They read what they have to for school and nothing else.  They see reading as a chore instead of a pleasure.  The Kindle has the ability to change that mentality.  Readers see the book one page at a time on the Kindle, instead of a large 500 page book.  By breaking the book down into smaller chunks, the book is perceived as less intimidating.

On the Amazon Kindle forums, there is a story written by the mother of a young teenager who does not like to read.  But once she tried the Kindle, she was hooked.  The post on the forum also pointed out the font adjustment feature on the Kindle.  Setting it to a larger font size equates to easier reading.  Many posters in the forum alluded to the fact that making the font larger does the trick.

Considering that the Kindle is not a book, but a container for many books, kids can find their niche in reading.  They have a large selection to choose from.  So, if one kid likes fantasy, they can quickly choose Harry Potter, or if another prefers the Chronicles of  Narnia, then it is right there as well.  The Kindle has great potential to be incorporated into the classroom.  Young readers will have vast libraries of books right at the click of a button.