I have a lot of friends who get to be involved in really cool things in their work and a few weeks ago a friend shared a Kickstarter campaign for Imaginary Friends. I watched it and got so excited I was ready to back the campaign on the spot. After a conversation with my friend she offered to send us a Beta version of the book for us to try out and I jumped on the opportunity. Turns out, it's as awesome as I expected and I think you should back the Kickstarter too. (For those of you who don't know, you pledge now but don't pay unless the goal is met. You're pledging to help them have the funds to create the product but in this case the timelines aren't too long and first products are going to ship in September.)
What is it?
It's a chapter book that is printed with each chapter as its own mini book. There are also activities that take the kids out of the story and into real life between each chapter. This includes scavenger hunts (for example, my son had to find all the pieces of a puzzle around our house based on clues we created), games on the computer and one game in our book even had our son exploring the neighbourhood using the gps on my iPhone.
Imaginary Friends set up stories that take kids outside of just reading. The way I see it there are advantages for all types of readers.
My son is an avid reader, sometimes it's hard to get him out of his room. The pause between each chapter for an activity had him up and running around and excited to take on another task. (I haven't seen him this enthusiastic about anything other than Minecraft in a long time!)
For a non avid reader, I can see the activities making reading feel more interactive and exciting and less "boring".
How it works
When you get the book, the parents are in charge of setting up an account and getting things rolling. There is an account for the parent to move the story forward and set up activities and there is an account for the kids to log in and play the games on the computer and get prompted to do activities (the games run on an ipod/iphone but it worked better on an actual computer).
When we first started out I wanted it to seem magical that the games was leading him to things around our house but until I explained that we had been involved he would often just stare at the computer baffled at how to follow through within the computer game. Once that clicked he was thrilled and really got in to all the games.
Parents need to log in to their system to move to the next game and be ready to hand out the chapters one at a time, so it takes more involvement from the parent than a typical book but it was well worth it. There was one time when I thought the game wasn't working properly but it turned out I hadn't done my part in the parent part of the system so you just need to remember to do all the parts.
Who are these for?
They say they're targeted at 8-12 year olds. I think because my son is such an advanced reader that it seems to me it could be younger than that but I know most kids aren't devouring chapter books on their own at 6. I do think you could be even more involved and help with the games and the chapters and kids as young as 6 would really enjoy these stories.
I asked my 8 year old what he thought and here are a few of his points:
I liked getting to play a game between each chapter. (Books and video games, my son's favourite things! :)
I really liked the story because it was exciting, it had superheroes and the ending was kind of surprising.
It was surprising at the start because I didn’t know there would be games. In one of them the computer game told me to look for things in my own house and I couldn’t figure out how they did that.
Check out the Kickstarter. They only have 7 days left and they're 75% of the way to their goal. I liked the book so much that I bought their 4-book pack knowing we'd get the same book as we already have and planning to give it to someone as a gift.
I love encouraging reading and making it even more fun by taking them outside of the books was a total win for me. We read Capes in the Family and I can't wait to get Circus of Mirrors in the Fall. Eventually I think we'll get one of their deluxe books that has artifacts and props. Because seriously - how cool is this idea!? So Cool!
The Imaginary Friends team put together a few freebies if you want to try things out. Check it all out to get a taste for the products.
Free Sample Kit: Try out some of Capes in the Family game now! http://try.imaginaryfriendbooks.com
Full disclosure: I was given a book for free to test out but wasn't asked to say anything specific. I really do just love this idea a lot :)