Friday, January 30, 2015


I found a way to get Nico reading, and I wasn't even trying.

A while back, the company Farfaria contacted my friend Zachary about testing out their app. She declined, but let them know that I volunteer as a children's librarian and might be interested. I checked out the advertising material on their site and thought it was something I could use for TK and kinder. It seemed geared to a younger audience, so I thought it would work for 1st grade, too, but only during the beginning of the year while they worked towards early chapter books.

I received a 6 month subscription, which I put to use at the beginning of the school year with the 1st grade. It went well. We read David and Goliath and David and the Spider. After each story we talked about the message and I had the kids draw pictures of their favorite scene. I do that with every read aloud with the young ones to reinforce the experience for them.

Note for teachers: FarFaria works on Smart Boards.

The kids loved the app but I prefer to read to them from a book. My ipad is too small to be using it as a read-aloud. I don't have a Smart Board in the library, so that option is out for me. If I had a Smart Board or some other way to enlarge the display, then I would likely use it in the library. The illustrations are all very good and I love the idea of the kids reading along while I read out loud to them.

At that point, I liked the app but didn't have much to say about it. I could see where it could be of use in a classroom, and had it been around when the boys were very little, I would have downloaded it to the smartphone I didn't have so that I could keep it handy while standing in line or waiting at the doctor's office.  For my present life, though, it didn't seem relevant to my stage of motherhood. I was so wrong!

I had Nico try it out one day because, if I'm being honest, he was driving me crazy. He talks, talks, talks, talks. Nonstop and in circles. I was trying to read a book without any sort of success. I tried to get him to read alongside me, but he was of course not interested. In desperation (I was at a really good part in the book I was reading), I handed him my ipad and showed him the app.

He read for an hour, right next to me, quiet as a church mouse, until I told him to take a break from the screen and rest his eyes. 

Since that day, he asks me to read on Farfaria, and on some days I have to cut him off. Recently I did that, and he was so disappointed that he asked if he could read a paper book in bed  (YES, YES YOU CAN). I'm not thrilled that it took an app to get him to read, and I'm not sure how good all that screen time is for him, but he's reading and enjoying it; I'm not going to complain. 

I thought I would go into detail about what the app is like because it is a subscription app, and it's good to have a very clear idea of what you're buying before you commit. They offer a free trial, but I try to avoid free trials. I'd much rather buy what I know will work versus download something I might like. Lots of words and pictures in this post, but hopefully they'll be more helpful than annoying.

Here's an idea of what it looks like from Nico's end.

This is the home screen, where the caregiver or child can navigate self-explanatory genres. Nico likes Adventure Island best.

Once you're inside your preferred genre, the available books pop up in order of age/grade/difficulty.

The above is a screenshot from the FarFaria website, but it's perfect to show how to find the right book for the right reading level. Once I showed Nico his letter, he was off and running. He also challenged himself to read at the 4th grade level, which I believe is letter R. More on that in a minute.

Nico's favorite series is The Monster Club, which is a 2nd grade book. There are over 800 books available on FarFaria, and some, like The Monster Club, are part of a series that is added to regularly.

As you can see, by hovering over the cover of Yikes, A Yeti!, the caregiver or child can decide whether to read the book or have the book read to them by an audiobook narrator. It's a person(s), not a robot, with good tone and inflection. Nico does not want the story read to him--he wants to read it himself and I'm more than happy with that. I prefer it, actually.

You can read the stories in either portrait or landscape format. Nico prefers landscape. He doesn't like the text over the image. A finger swipe turns the page.

The books are very short, which is possibly why Nico loves the app so much. He gets a strong sense of achievement when he finishes a book, and these short, colorful stories give him that feeling of success. Also, because every page has a bright, colorful picture, it has an almost graphic novel feel to it. Nico is a visual child, and I'm sure that's part of the allure for him.

Here's a sample of Treasure Island, a 4th grade book.

I'm not sure how "4th grade" I can call this version of Treasure Island. It seems rudimentary to me, with very simple vocabulary with a few challenge words sprinkled in. But you know what? I don't care if it's an 8th grader reading it, so long as he's reading.

Overall, I love the app and will be purchasing a subscription when my free trial runs out. If it motivates Nico to read in a way that engages him and seems fun, I'm all for it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my book. :)


  1. Thanks for posting such a thorough review of the app! I am pregnant with our first and hope he finds a love of reading early on, but if not, this seems like a great option. I also love the idea of having kids draw their favorite part of a book or chapter as a way of making sure they understand what they are listening to or reading! I am going to keep that tip for later for sure! Hope you and your family have a great weekend!

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