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Enter the amazing world of virtual story books with Magic Town

In our house we absolutely love stories. Whether it is reading traditional favourites such as The Ugly Duckling or soon to be classics such as The Gruffalo reading at bedtime is a nightly ritual in our house with Roo.

So when I heard about a virtual world that brings story books to life right in front of children and is interactive and educational I was excited to try it.  E-learning is becoming a great way to engage children with even some schools investing in iPads for older pupils.   I was interested to see what lay ahead with this review opportunity.

So what is Magic Town and how does it work?

Welcome to the magical literary world that is Magic Town.

Magic Town is the first virtual book world based on popular picture book characters. As children explore the vibrant landscape and click on the houses, they’ll find stories, games and puzzles. The stories are presented as Livebooks™ which means they are interactive stories that children and parents can interact with as they go along in the book.

What I love about the concept behind Magic Town is that it makes reading fun. For so many children today books and learning to read can be something they struggle with and thanks to technology it is easy for children to miss out on the traditional reading of stories with parents. I remember when I was young how reading used to be like entering another realm and I would often dream of going to Narnia or the Far Away Tree as I was a huge Enid Blyton fan.

The creative team at behind Magic Town have tapped into this with the Livebooks and the experience is all about capturing children’s imagination and feeding the sparks of creativity, engaging in critical thinking and getting them to piece a story together with actions. Reading captures children’s imagination, sparks their creativity and engages them in critical thinking skills.

Magic Town brings families together, inspiring them to share stories – we’ve already all sat around the iMac for nearly an hour investigating this magical world and we even drew our own idea of what ‘our’ Magic Town would look like if we went there as a family.  Magic Town is a source of technology that supports children’s early literacy development in a really fun way.

Each Livebook™ has four reading modes:

  • Explore:  A narrator reads the story, which includes animation, sound effects and interactive tasks and questions. The questions are based on the child’s age, educational level, and the number of times he or she has explored that book.  The questions appear at logical places in the story, prompting the child to think before moving the story forward.
  • Read Together:  An adult or a child reads the story aloud. The pictures are animated.  This is an ideal way for parents and children to enjoy stories together.
  • Watch:  A narrator reads the story which plays like a video, with text displayed underneath the animations. This mode works well on car trips or just before bedtime.
  • Play:  A narrator reads the story, but children control the pace by clicking on characters or objects to move the action forward. This mode encourages active listening skills.

Children love technology and using Magic Town as an electronic learning platform is a clever way to keep children engaged, interested and on track with their learning objectives whilst reinforcing key reading skills. Max and Izzy are the Magic Town guides. They welcome visitors and show them around. They introduce Louis the Storyteller, a wise old lion who has travelled around the world collecting stories. When Louis arrived in Magic Town, he planted his staff in the ground and up sprouted a tree bearing stories. Each time a child visits Magic Town, Louis presents a new story of the day. It is up to the child to unleash the stories and bring Magic Town to life.

The stories and games appear in character-based houses that populate the Magic Town landscape.

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Where Can You Use Magic Town and What Does it Cost?

Magic Town launched as a website in May 2012.

It will be available as an iPad app soon, and will later be released on iPhone, iPod touch, and other devices. All users have access to a new free story every day. A subscription gives users full access to Magic Town, and the ability to set up profiles for four children.

I think it will be great when it comes out on iPad and iPhone as Roo probably like most other toddlers I know loves using the iPad to get the latest children’s learning apps and this will be great as it means that we can teach the grandparents to use it with her too!

There are several pricing options: One Month: £7.99 / $11.99 / €9.99: Six Months: £39.99 / $59.99 / €44.99 One year: £49.99 / $74.99 / €59.99.

The more your child uses Magic Town the more personalised it becomes thanks to the way the algorithms help to suggest new content, stories and games based on the user’s data input.  So by creating a personalised profile for your child you get to build up an appropriate library of virtual story books.

For more information about Mindshapes, go to mindshapes.com You can also visit Mindshapes on Facebook, Twitter (@Mindshapes and @MindshapesApps), LinkedIn, Google+ and YouTube.

You can follow Magic Town on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and YouTube.

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For the purpose of the review I was given a subscription of Magic Town for 12 months so that myself and Roo could enter the virtual bookstore together and create our own adventures. I do not work for Magic Town and am not affiliated with them in any capacity. The views expressed in this review are my own.

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