Wednesday 16 December 2009

EA Flips on Nintendo DS - The Fun New Way for Kids to Read

Sophie takes after me and is a total bookworm - she will devour a book within days of buying it or taking it out of the library. She's only been reading fluently for about the past couple of years and her bookshelves are overflowing with books already so I suggested she might like to swap books with her friends - lend them out, read them and then swap them back. She was up for it but nobody else was - they don't like reading much, according to their mums. Sophie also loves her Nintendo Ds and, funnily enough, her friends are quite enthusiastic about swapping around their games cartridges from time to time. Flips combines the best of both worlds, offering fun, interactive books for kids to read and play about with on their Nintendo DS. I'm intrigued to see how well they take off with Sophie's reluctant-reader friends.

As far as Sophie's concerned, they're brilliant. The main advantage according to her is that she can read in bed without turning the light on ! I'm not sure if that means she's been reading under the covers in the middle of the night but she hasn't got dark rings under her eyes or started yawning all the time so I don't think so ! It's great for in the car on long journeys though, especially now that the nights are drawing in and it gets dark really early, making a lot of the usual car-friendly games and activities impossible. I also love the way they take up so much less space in the luggage than traditional books - last time we went to visit the grandparents for a fortnight, Sophie took a whole carrier bag full of books with her !! You could replace all that with a handful of tiny games cartridges because each cartridge contains several books. That means a lot less books lying around in the bedroom to be tidied away too !

The Flips virtual books also offer a lot of fun features that no paper book could ever offer - you can interact by clicking on certain words and pull up character profiles, quizzes, jokes, recipes, and extra information, or even make funny sound effects. They remind me a bit of the Leappad books that work in a similar way with sound effects and little games but that kids have long outgrown by the time they can read properly, so this is like the next stage on. For those who are used to playing video games and want an extra challenge, you can unlock hidden content as you go by collecting special tokens. It's really motivating and, if the other Nintendo DS games are anything to go by, all the kids in the neighbourhood will soon be comparing notes to see who has got the furthest and unlocked the most content on each game, so it could be just the boost some kids need to start really enjoying reading.

I think whoever picked the titles to be made into Flips deserves a huge pat on the back because he or she has really got into the heads of youngsters and picked all their faves - assuming they're all like Sophie anyway. There's Cathy Cassidy, Eoin Colfer, Enid Blyton, ‘Too Ghoul for School’ - all of which are big hits with Sophie and should appeal to a wide variety of ages and profiles, including boys who often don't get overly excited about reading books.

It reminds me a bit of the grown-up trend for e-readers, that have suddenly made geeky bookworms reading on the tube on the commute into work look like über-cool techno-whizzes who follow the latest trends ! If Flips can "sex up" (or whatever the kid-version would be !) reading in the same way for the younger generation, that's got to be a good thing. There are only a few titles available at the moment because they're brand new but the range will surely be extended in the months to come.

star rating : 5/5

RRP : £24.99

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