Magic Town is a rather cool website that creates a virtual world based on picture book characters and stories for young children.
You can read and play on your computer (and IWB) at MagicTown.com or via the Magic Town app for iPad. The content is the same on both devices. All users have access to 20 free stories, as well as a new, free story every day. A subscription gives users full access to all the stories in Magic Town, and the ability to set up profiles for four children.
In Magic Town, children can click on different areas of the town to discover stories, games and puzzles. There are fables, fairy tales and well-known series from top publishers. The stories are presented as what Magic Town call Livebooks, their own interactive story format, basically Big Books. The Livebook tasks engage children with the characters in the stories and are similar to the questions trained teachers use as a regular part of storytelling time.
There are two characters called Max and Izzy who act as 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. 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.
Clicking on different houses brings up a different set of stories. For example I clicked on the rocket and got the page below (No female astronauts though?). Different parts of the image brings up a different story – such as the train and the space shuttle. Clicking on the Jigsaw brings up a jigsaw game and the magnifying glass brings up a different activity. These icons are the same in each story area.
Each Livebook story book has four reading modes:
● Explore: In this mode a narrator reads the story, which includes animation, sound effects plus 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: There’s no narration and an adult or a child can read 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.
All of these modes would work well in a classroom setting on an Interactive Whiteboard.
On the website you can subscribe on a monthly, six monthly or annual basis. Prices range from £7.99/$11.99 a month to £49/$74.99 for the year. In the iPad app, the additional stories come as in-app purchases for £3.99 / $5.99 / €4.99
Overall I was really impressed with the Magic Town experience. There’s a lot of content here, and it’s well-presented. It would serve well as a resource for parents, as well as reception/KS1 teachers as a whole class resource.
As always, let me know what you think in the comments!