#FamilySunday: Monsters and memories
HONG KONG - Many parents of my generation will recall childhood summers with a certain degree of fondness for various reasons. Here’s one of them:
In an era that predates cable television and the Internet (yes, kids, we only had 5 free-to-air TV stations then), we didn’t have access to 24-hour cartoon channels and on-demand clips on the web. Therefore, the same hour every weekday (9am, if I recall correctly) would be reserved for "Sesame Street," the educational kids’ show that has endured for nearly 50 years.
Characters like Kermit the Frog, The Count, Ernie, Bert, and Cookie Monster were as real to us as the actors and actresses on the show who played Luis, Maria, Bob, Susan, Gordon, and the late Mr. Hooper.
This brings me to the iOS kids’ app called “The Monster at the End of this Book,” which features lovable, furry old Grover (his own descriptors, not mine… but I have to agree with him), the childlike, klutzy Muppet who always seems to get into some sort of trouble.
This story is a classic book from the early '70s which was transformed into an interactive one. The plot remains the same: Grover chances upon a sign (the title of the book, actually) and immediately goes into a panic upon learning that there is a monster waiting at the end of the book. So he goes to great lengths to prevent the reader from turning the pages because that would bring everyone closer to the awaiting monster.
He pleads, ties the pages together, nails the pages shut, and builds a brick wall, all in the attempt to seal off the final page. Of course, these strategies are futile and the reader eventually gets to the very last page to discover who exactly the monster at the end of the book is.
The illustrations from the original book have been recreated accurately into animated “pages” to be viewed on any portable Apple device, complete with dialogue (written in exactly the same font as the original book, too) and interactive activities which are not possible on paper. For example, after Grover builds a brick wall, the child is given the opportunity to knock it down by touching the screen.
Here is a video of 'The Monster at the End of this Book' e-book from ebooks.sesamestreet.org:
After busting enough holes through the wall, it collapses in a dusty heap and the story moves on to the next page.
More importantly, though, the app includes notes for parents on how to tell if a child is afraid, how to teach children about fear and what steps can be taken to accept, manage, and eventually, overcome them. Lessons that were merely implied in the original book are now readily available via extra notes in the app version. Therefore, the app not only encourages interaction between the child and the device, but between the child and parent, as well.
Naturally, there will be detractors who would have an opinion on “using the imagination” when reading versus spoon-feeding information. Both the book and interactive computer program have their merits as educational tools, so rather than pit one against the other, let us appreciate both of them for what they essentially are: different methods to achieve a fair degree of learning.
Since its release a few years ago, this story book app has received great reviews, has garnered a number of awards and has reached #1 in the interactive books category on the iTunes app store, which speaks to its appeal as a well-appreciated app for kids.
I suspect that the success of “The Monster at the End of this Book” is not only because it appeals to today’s kids’ need for motion and interaction, but also because those who wield the wallets to pay for the app are people like me – parents who have grown up with the Muppets as members of the household, welcomed into the home every morning many summers ago.
It helps bring us back to simpler times through the wonders of today’s technology, bridging generations through sentimental memories of cute, furry monsters like Grover whom we have grown to love.
And as soon as I’m done with the app, I promise to give my kids a turn to play. Maybe one day soon. Hey, if we had to wait a whole day just to satisfy our Sesame Street fix decades ago, kids today need to learn how to wait, too! - Rappler.com
(There is the helicopter parent, the negligent parent, and then there’s Michael Gohu Yu. A doting father one minute who transforms into Homer Simpson the next, his writing on parenting reflects themes ranging from the hilarious to the heartwarming. Whichever the case, though, he always aims to entertain parents of all ages. #FamilySunday)