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So, your kids are at home and they’ve run out of things to do. Once again, they’re staring at a screen.
Don’t worry, we’ve all been there.
Sure, we’d all like our kids to get excited about reading and books, but let’s face it, Pete the Cat just doesn’t hold their attention like the latest toy unboxing video on YouTube.
When we heard about Vooks, and their promise to make a more engaging and animated reading experience through their app, we were a bit skeptical. After all, there is no shortage of companies that claim to be able to turn a child’s screen time into a more enriching and engaging reading experience.
We decided to put their app to the test and were delightfully surprised.
What is Vooks
Founded in 2018, Vooks is a curated library and book-streaming platform that enriches the reading experience by adding movement, sound, and read-along narration to children’s books.
The company has a growing collection of about 100 books to choose from, and the general idea is to bring reading to life and engage kids with animation and promote literacy at the same.
What does Vooks cost?
All prices are correct as of writing and are in US dollars (USD).
Vooks offers both monthly and yearly subscriptions.
You can sign up for a monthly membership for $4.99 per month, or you can sign up for a yearly membership for $49.99 per month (a savings of about $10).
Vooks offers a 30 day free trial as well so you can test it out to see if it’s for you.
You should note: You need a credit card to sign for the free trial, as they try to reduce fraudulent credit card sign ups by charging (and refunding) a $1 holding fee. Also note that unless you cancel their system will bill you for a year ($49.99).
So, is it worth the money?
Overall, we think Vooks is very much worth the money.
Pricewise, we believe that $4.99 per month (or $4.17 per month if you sign up for a yearly plan) really isn’t a whole lot of money for what you get, even if you use it just to read a book a month.
If you were to subscribe to, say, Amazon’s kindle unlimited you would pay twice as much (about $10/month) without the built in read aloud narration and animation.
Additionally, despite being a relatively new company Vooks already has a lot of children’s books available, about a hundred give or take. Their books are pretty high quality titles and are quirky and fun and we think they will keep kids interested, especially younger ones.
Importantly, Vooks is also ad free, which we really like, so your experience won’t suddenly be interrupted by loud, annoying commercials.
One thing we never like is that Vooks subscriptions automatically renew. That means if you’re a busy parent and forget to cancel at the end of the month or year, they will rebill you and re-subscribe you automatically, which is never fun.
What’s the logic behind all this?
The logic behind Vooks app is pretty sound and is based on some pretty solid evidence.
Studies have shown that animated illustrations that match a story capture the attention and help develop understanding of text better than static images. Motion and effects seem to grab kids attention better and for longer periods of time, directing their attention to important central details, and when presented with highlighted text at the same time seems to promote visual and verbal processing, resulting in deeper comprehension.
In a more broad educational sense, reading aloud is actually an important, widely used and effective method of improving literacy and reading comprehension, and is considered a foundation of literacy development. By listening to a story being read aloud, students develop better a understanding of the text as their capacity to understand usually is far ahead of their reading ability. As they read along with the presented text, they are then presented with an opportunity to practice their own reading, sounding out words and learning pronunciation.
Vooks works pretty much according to these best practices. The animations are designed not to overly distract, instead working to focus attention and connect what’s happening on screen to what’s being read. The highlighted text moves align with the narration, much like a student would follow along with their finger, and the speech is careful and clear, letting kids develop their pronunciation, sense of tone, fluidity, pitch, and inflection.
How does Vooks work?
Once you sign up for Vooks, you and your kids are given access to a curated library of titles that you can search through to find something to read. You can save favorites, create playlists, and even download titles in case you’re in an area with spotty wifi or super slow internet.
One thing we think you should know is that accounts are limited to 3 devices or browsers at one time, and logging in on more devices can result in an error or account lock until you log out. While this is fairly common with streaming (think Netflix), we think it is is something to be aware of if you are a larger family with more than two young children to entertain. Or if you just leave devices logged in, like we do.
One thing we really liked is that Vooks offers a large number of lesson plans for free to go with certain books. We found them to be fairly useful and think that parents can use them to get kids thinking and engage with their reading, or for parents to sort through to see if a book is worth their child’s time.
These lesson plans include helpful breakdowns of the story for parents, a brief summary of themes and ideas, a list of vocabulary and special words to go over afterwards. They also include activities and questions for further learning and even have a section they call “Pause and Ponder,” which consists of timestamps of relevant sections of the story where parents can introduce pertinent questions.
Overall, we think these lesson plans are a great way to turn Vooks into a more interactive learning experience, and are perfect for parents looking to stimulate deeper thinking and engagement, as well as homeschooling parents looking to integrate it into their curricula.
Like other multiplatform app companies, how you go about cancelling Vooks depends on where you signed up for it originally (make sure you remember!), but in general is pretty easy.
Apple: Cancellations are managed through your iTunes subscription. Sign in, go to subscriptions, Click the edit next to Vooks and click cancel subscription.
Google/Android: Sign in and go to your Google Play account, go to My Subscriptions, find Vooks and click Cancel.
Amazon: Login, select Apps, select Your Subscriptions, find Vooks and cancel.
Roku:From your set – Select Home, highlight Vooks, press Star, click manage subscriptions and click cancel.From the Web – Sign in, go to manage subscriptions, find Vooks and click cancel.
Vooks website: Sign in, click your profile icon, click manage subscription, click cancel (not pause since you will be rebilled eventually).
What are Vooks Books like?
Vooks’ books are not your typical boring see spot run type books. In general, they’re more modern kids books aimed at pre-school and younger elementary school children that we think contain positive messages and themes that are great for kids. For example, there are collections of books to choose from that are centered around important ideas like being yourself, being brave, being creative, friendship, being kind etc.
The illustration styles as a whole tend to be more modern and quirky and fit pretty well overall with being animated.
You can browse some of their collection on their website.
As a downside, while it’s still growing, the library of Vooks isn’t as large as you might find on, say Amazon. This can be frustrating if you’re looking for a specific book to share with your children.
What age group is Vooks for?
Officially, Vooks says it is designed for kids Ages 2-8.
In our opinion, we think it’s best for kids a bit younger 8, and would probably be best for kids 2-6. By 8, kids are generally reading more sophisticated and exciting books than what is offered and we don’t think kids 7+ will necessarily be impressed.
What’s the animation like?
Narration and Pace
You can see an example of a Vooks book being read aloud below.
Overall, we like the calm narration and steady pace that Vooks tends to use, and think it can help younger kids improve their sight and word recognition. It’s not too hard for kids to follow along and read along if they like, but not too slow for them to get bored and fidgety.
The voiceovers also won’t rile your kids up too much and should help them concentrate on the material presented.
Quality of animation
We found Vooks animations to be well done. They are smoothly animated and bring the stories to life without being too dominant or distracting. After all, the point is for kids to read along, not gaze in wonder at the art quality.
That said, you should know that Vooks is animating the existing illustrations, not making entirely new cartoon versions of the stories.
It’s unlikely, therefore, that they will quickly replace the selection of 3D movies on Netflix anytime soon.
If your kids love their tablets and you’re looking for a way to get your younger children more engaged with books, we think Vooks animated read along videos is a good option. Their collection of fun, wholesome and quirky books are smoothly animated, and they offer a decent selection of free and well-made lesson plans to go along with the videos. While perhaps most useful for younger kids, Vooks is a good use of screen time in our opinion and will work best with parental involvement and encouragement.