There is a lot going on in "The Busy World of Richard Scarry," and a newly Vermont-based web developer hopes this platform will scare up some interest in learning to read. It just finished its app called "Words that Go!" And it's hitting the market this week.
"What it is is a way to start enjoying and experimenting with letters and how you can put them together to make words," said Chris Hancock of Learning Touch.
Hancock specializes in educational technology. He has been developing web games since the early 1990s, but a fondness for Richard Scarry dates back to his childhood. He's happy to have it as his creative launch pad.
Along with the help of a few college and high school-aged interns, they have brought the world famous cartoons back to life. One intern scans them off the page and animates them, another codes movement and finally-- the sound! And they didn't just use any computerized voice for this app, they drew from real Vermont talent, like third-grader Owen. You can catch him when you spot the hat car.
"Kids playing the game hear the kids in the game and it makes a big difference," Hancock said.
Hancock says their target age range is 2-6. The app aims to be a fun space to create and learn, teaching kids how to identify letters, put them together to form words, and with each successful word, the car can pass through the intersection.
Richard Scarry's books have been around for decades, but this new interactive technology opens a new door into Richard Scarry's world.
"He has created these amazingly imaginative cars that are being used in a way he didn't anticipate. It adds so much interest and suspense to the game. They are the centerpiece of the game. It's all about what is the next crazy and whacky car that is going to come out," Hancock explained.
He says computer games and apps are like building blocks for the next generation. They encourage experimentation and learning from failure, but he admits there is such a thing as a healthy balance between technology and the real world.
"We call it screen time-- TVs, computers, devices. There is a limit to screen time," Hancock said.
The company says its ultimate goal will be to drive the next generation of readers back to the greats, like Richard Scarry and the goofy golden bug.
The app will only be available on Apple products at first. You can buy it for $2 in the App Store.