Developer Interview with Hoa Ly of Enjo

Find Enjo on the internet, Facebook and Twitter.

Hello Hoa! Tell us about the company!

We’re a small team who’ve taken on a big challenge – to create a chatbot to provide emotional support to parents world wide!

Tell us about Enjo(which is awesome!!)

Enjo helps you handle the ups and downs of being a parent. Enjo will make you reflect on the good things in your life, and the highlights of parenting. It could be meaningful memories with your child, what you appreciate in your partner or what makes you grateful about being a parent.

And when you’re feeling down, stressed or worried, Enjo will offer support, validate your feelings, perhaps try to shift your perspective or just let you know if it’s common to feel the way you do.

We’re still experimenting with it, but we think it’s pretty cool that Enjo sometimes can help you get out of the black-and-white-thinking that can occur when you’re filled with negative emotions, and add some nuance just by reminding you of good things you’ve talked about in the past. The feeling of ”I don’t ever do enough for my kids!” can sometimes be turned around just by getting reminded of the sweet moments you’ve shared and good things you’ve done for your family.

Any future apps planned?

We don’t have anything that’s in the planning stage yet, but of course we’re thinking about making other psychology based chatbots for groups other than parents.

Any advice for those developing apps?

Try to find something that you care deeply about, and try to find an innovative way to package it into an app. For me it’s been psychology. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of helping people live better lives by making the insights from research more accessible.

Of course there’s an infinite number of things we still don’t know about the human mind. But the biggest problem in my view is that the knowledge we do have doesn’t reach all the people who could benefit from it.

Any advice for parents?

As a psychologist and researcher I’d recommend you to try being a mindful parent, and simply practice to pay attention to the present – as well as your own and your child’s feelings. It doesn’t mean that you will never get angry or upset. It is completely normal to feel negative emotions, but not acting on them mindlessly is what compromises mindful parenting.

Most importantly, mindful parenting does not mean being a“perfect parent” and is not something you can fail at – only something you can get better at.

But I’m actually becoming a father in just a couple of weeks, so I’m looking forward to utilizing my own experiences in the future!

Best wishes Hoa on your upcoming arrival. We can’t wait to see what additional apps your company comes up with!

Download Enjo for free!

Developer Interview with Carolyn Saper and Alice Letvin of ReadAskChat at The iMums

Today’s interview is with Carolyn Saper and Alice Letvin of ReadAskChat.  Visit their website

Thank you for participating our interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.

carolynCarolyn: Alice and I have been colleagues for the last 35 years. Early in my career I taught first and second grade (and a little kindergarten) before joining the Great Books Foundation, where I met Alice. Eventually I became the editorial director. After leaving Great Books, I joined the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute as the senior editor of curriculum and assessment. I was one of the authors of its STEP Literacy Assessment. One of my most pleasurable recent activities—in addition to ReadAskChat, of course!—was to serve on the national advisory committee of the American Writers Museum—another startup education venture. My AB in English literature and MST in K–9 curriculum and instruction are both from the University of Chicago.

aliceAlice: As a child and throughout my life, reading and sharing literature with others has been my passion. After earning my PhD in Comparative Literature from Washington University in St. Louis, I joined the editorial staff at the Great Books Foundation, later serving as president for ten years. While there, we created and implemented nationwide an exemplary interpretive reading, writing, and discussion program to extend the benefits of literature-based, open-ended inquiry to the regular classroom,. Subsequently, as editorial director of the Cricket Magazine Group, I led the publication of its series of world-class literary and science magazines for toddlers through teens, including the beloved Cricket magazine, which has inspired so many young writers, artists, and thinkers. Collaborating with Carolyn on ReadAskChat is the culmination of all that we have learned about engaging both children and adults in the pleasures of imagination and sharing ideas with each other.

Art for “Itsy Bitsy Spider” (c) 2017 by John Sandford for ReadAskChat.

How did the idea for your app come about?

Carolyn: The inspiration for ReadAskChat comes from personal experience. My husband and I are adoptive parents, and when our daughter Jiji came home at 9 months, she was clinically failure to thrive. She couldn’t hold her little head up or babble, or reach for shiny objects—things that 9-month-olds should be doing. But after only one month of reading picture books, singing songs, playing and snuggling, and “chatting” about anything and everything, Jiji was a fully caught up and happy 10-month-old.  (And now she’s about to graduate from college with a degree in philosophy.) For years, Alice and I have shared a love of reading and discussing books, so when the stars aligned and we were both ready to pursue a new project, we put our experience of making inspiring literature accessible to children and developed ReadAskChat. Jiji’s cognitive and emotional blossoming as a baby was never far from our memory. We both marveled that the simple act of creating a routine of sharing wonderful stories with a very young child seemed so immediately impactful, with lasting effects. We believe in the potential of ReadAskChat to enable all families to have a similarly joyful and brain-building learning experience with their own babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.

How do you suggest parents help limit kids screen time?

Carolyn: Our child grew up in the digital age, so I recognize that parents can find this challenging. But my husband and I grew up in the age of TV, and our parents simply established TV-viewing limits early—which became the accepted family value. In our home, we simply removed devices from our daughter’s room at a set time of day, and said—“light’s out.” But I’m convinced that because we also established a norm of reading and conversation (starting before our daughter was even capable of conversation!) that we set a pattern of live—not virtual—deep communication that continues to this day.

Alice: I want to make the point that we don’t consider engaging with ReadAskChat as traditional “screen time.” ReadAskChat is a digital library and is meant to be used by children and parents together. It’s actually the very opposite of a “babysitting app” that parents hand off to their kids, which would constitute passive “screen time.” ReadAskChat is anything but passive. Our aim is to replicate the picture-book experience in which parents read with their children. We guide parents in a method of interactive reading that involves reading, rereading, asking text-specific questions, and engaging in back-and-forth exchanges.  While our selections are short (because our audiences are so young), they are content rich, with illustrations that can support close observation and reward extended conversation.

Reading comes in many forms – digital, physical, storytelling and more.  Which of these ways is the best for kids to learn?

Alice: Very young children—the ReadAskChat audience—only learn language from other people. So reading with children, rather than turning on an audiobook or video—is the best way to build reading readiness. But the difference between a digital book and a physical book shouldn’t make any difference. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently revised its guidelines for recommended screen time with the caveat that digital experiences should be parent-mediated. What’s important is that parents and children read together—sharing ideas, having fun, being silly, taking turns making up stories about characters, and generally having a warm, enjoyable time with each other. There’s more and more research evidence supporting the importance of social-emotional learning.  We tell parents: Watch your child’s reactions. Build on what your child says or seems curious about. Talking about richly drawn fictional characters—of the kind we include in ReadAskChat—helps your child practice reading the emotions of others—to understand what is going on under the surface. This is also an important thinking and comprehension skill. Stories teach empathy and the ability to relate to others. This is key because getting along with others is the single most important school readiness skill, according to most kindergarten teachers.

Carolyn: Our background is in print publishing, so we are occasionally asked why we created a digital library. Our primary reason is that we wanted to increase access to high-quality children’s books to families who for many reasons (including income level) may not have high-quality children’s books in their homes. But smartphone and tablet technology now makes it possible for almost all families to have easy access to an app like ReadAskChat.  The technology also makes it possible for us to embed suggestions for how to engage with each story at three developmental levels—babies, toddlers, and preschoolers.  I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard someone say, “I know I’m supposed to read and talk with my little kid about books, but I have no idea how to do that!” ReadAskChat is particularly designed for those parents.

Art for “Naughty or Nice” (c) 2012 by Jon Goodell. Text (c) 2017 by ReadAskChat.

Tell me more about how parents can help their kids learn?

Carolyn: The research is pretty clear that the single most important learning activity that parents can do with their children is reading and talking about books together.  What we would add is that whatever parents do, it should be joyful.  This is why we took great care in making sure that the stories and illustrations in ReadAskChat appeal to both child and adult. (Alice and I still laugh at the frogs in Naughty or Nice? and at the hilarious observations of the Animal Tails narrator.) Our long experience has shown us time and time again that when the parent is having fun, the child will too. And we fervently believe that learning should always be fun!

From “Animal Tails,” an African American folk rhyme. (c) 2017 by ReadAskChat.

Can you give an example of how parents can integrate ReadAskChat into their daily routines?

Alice: Children appreciate consistency and routines, so reading and chatting together every night at bedtime is a wonderful opportunity for bonding with your child. Such early shared experiences set the pattern for enjoying reading over a lifetime, and are often our most treasured memories of childhood. I’ll never forget hearing the magical “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod” for the first time, as my mother read it to me. But ReadAskChat is also designed to be integrated into busy schedules. While sitting in a waiting room or riding a bus, a parent can make best use of the time by pulling out the ReadAskChat library on her smartphone and engaging her child in conversation inspired by our short but content-rich selections. In addition, the ReadAskChat MORE! activities encourage parents to “keep the conversation going” through hands-on exploration—looking for animal footprints, for example, or by applying story concepts, such as indoor fun, to their own lives. After reading and chatting about “Kitchen Drums,” for example, we suggest parents give their child pots, pans, and spoons to make loud and soft “music” like the children in the story.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

Carolyn: Our original vision for ReadAskChat was based on a social justice mission. Our own families have so benefited from a culture of reading and exploration of ideas that we wanted more families to share in those benefits. We have grave inequities in our country, and access to good children’s books is one that we thought we could address. So we actively seek out organizations that focus on early learning, literacy, and/or parenting education and work with them to implement ReadAskChat with their constituencies. We recently developed a robust set of training materials and offer those to organizations. Our app also gives families the option to read all the conversation starters in Spanish because talking about the stories is what we’re all about. The stories remain in English because our mission is to foster school readiness, which in the U.S. means having some exposure to English.

Alice: Carolyn and I share the conviction that all children should be given the opportunity to realize their full potential as lifelong learners and empathic human beings. To achieve this result, ReadAskChat focuses on the first four years of life, when 80 percent of brain development occurs. Because parents play the first and most critical role in their children’s education, we aim to engage parents early on. Rather than dreary skills drills, the distinctive contribution of ReadAskChat is its emphasis on open-ended, imaginative, and joyful exploration of ideas.  If parents and children are having fun, both will be learning about each other and the world around them.

Thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing a bit about your company.  We really appreciated the chance to get to know you!


Developer Interview with Slater Collins of Jackrabbit Publishing


Today’s interview is with Slater Collins of Jackrabbit Publishing.  Please visit their website, Facebook and Twitter pages.

Slater, thank you for participating in our interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a father of two living in Chicago. I have a background in software engineering, but I’ve always felt a desire to work in a more creative capacity.

An interesting fact about me is that in 2015, I ran a 50 mile ultra-marathon. My motivation was to show people that you can survive and thrive on a vegan diet.

How did the idea for your app come about?

After reading lots of kids books with my children, I realized something. Most children’s brands focus on a group of friends and the challenges they face together (e.g. Jake and the Pirates, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.). These brands have a lot to say about friendship, but shy away from the topic of family.

The term “Family Values” is a hot-button issue for many. My motivation with this series is not to be preachy or “get back” to a time when families looked a certain way.

I simply believe that if we want children to develop happy and healthy family relationships, then we should be showing them examples of happy and healthy families. The Roxy Books were born out of the desire to provide kids with an example of a contemporary and fun-loving family.

And how long was the process from the original idea to the release of the app?

From concept to launch the process took three years. During that time, I was working full-time in the video game industry and raising two toddlers with my wife. Many many nights and weekends went into bringing the Roxy app to fruition. In the end, I’m very proud of the finished product.

Did you hire a developer or do it yourself?

I did all of the programming myself. I contracted out the illustrations, text translations, and voice acting.

What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome in the development process?

The hardest part of development was the slow pace. After a full day of work and putting the kids to bed, I only had two hours each night to work on the Roxy app.

At my day job, it might take a day to finish a feature. That same feature might take a full week on the Roxy app because of the limited amount of hours I could devote to it.

Maintaining momentum over several years at such a slow pace was much more difficult than any marathon training I ever did.

Have you had much support during the development process (from family, peers, Apple Inc.)?

My wife has always been very supportive of my career ambitions. She is very ambitious as well, having just earned the extremely difficult to obtain CFA certification. She supported me both in terms of sacrificing time together and in our decision to self-finance the app’s creation.

What are your plans for the future? Will you be developing any more apps?

I am planning on starting the next entry in The Roxy Books series in the next couple months.

What sort of feedback has the app been receiving so far?

The reception of the app has been overwhelmingly positive. People seem to love the heartwarming story and that relatable yearning for that “it” toy.

We have been extremely honored and ecstatic to be featured by Apple in the “Kids Apps and Games We Love” section of the App Store.

And finally, what advice would you give to anyone considering creating their own app?

Your app will take 10 times longer to develop than you think. It will also cost five times as much as you think. Once you put it out, you may not make any money on it. My advice would be to keep expenses as low as possible and put in as much sweat equity as possible.

Thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing a bit about your company. We really appreciated the chance to get to know you!

Read our review of Roxy and the Ballerina Robot here.

Roxy and the Ballerina Robot

Roxy and the Ballerina Robot Roxy and the Ballerina Robot by Jackrabbit Publishing LLC
Category: Books, Education
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone3GS-iPhone-3GS, iPhone4-iPhone4, iPodTouchFourthGen-iPodTouchFourthGen, iPad2Wifi-iPad2Wifi, iPad23G-iPad23G, iPhone4S-iPhone4S, iPadThirdGen-iPadThirdGen, iPadThirdGen4G-iPadThirdGen4G, iPhone5-iPhone5, iPodTouchFifthGen-iPodTouchFifthGen, iPadFourthGen-iPadFourthGen, iPadFourthGen4G-iPadFourthGen4G, iPadMini-iPadMini, iPadMini4G-iPadMini4G, iPhone5c-iPhone5c, iPhone5s-iPhone5s, iPadAir-iPadAir, iPadAirCellular-iPadAirCellular, iPadMiniRetina-iPadMiniRetina, iPadMiniRetinaCellular-iPadMiniRetinaCellular, iPhone6-iPhone6, iPhone6Plus-iPhone6Plus, iPadAir2-iPadAir2, iPadAir2Cellular-iPadAir2Cellular, iPadMini3-iPadMini3, iPadMini3Cellular-iPadMini3Cellular, iPodTouchSixthGen-iPodTouchSixthGen, iPhone6s-iPhone6s, iPhone6sPlus-iPhone6sPlus, iPadMini4-iPadMini4, iPadMini4Cellular-iPadMini4Cellular, iPadPro-iPadPro, iPadProCellular-iPadProCellular, iPadPro97-iPadPro97, iPadPro97Cellular-iPadPro97Cellular, iPhoneSE-iPhoneSE, iPhone7-iPhone7, iPhone7Plus-iPhone7Plus, iPad611-iPad611, iPad612-iPad612, iPad71-iPad71, iPad72-iPad72, iPad73-iPad73, iPad74-iPad74, iPhone8-iPhone8, iPhone8Plus-iPhone8Plus, iPhoneX-iPhoneX, iPad75-iPad75, iPad76-iPad76, iPhoneXS-iPhoneXS, iPhoneXSMax-iPhoneXSMax, iPhoneXR-iPhoneXR, iPad812-iPad812, iPad834-iPad834, iPad856-iPad856, iPad878-iPad878, iPadMini5-iPadMini5, iPadMini5Cellular-iPadMini5Cellular, iPadAir3-iPadAir3, iPadAir3Cellular-iPadAir3Cellular
Size: 117.63 MB


Developer Interview with Stacie Hutton

Today’s interview is with Stacie Hutton.  Please visit their website.

200706 summer 008Thank you for participating our interview. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in a poor, single parent family. My grandmother, although only possessing a 4th grade education herself, thought reading was important and encouraged me to read. Because I had good reading skills, I was able to do well in school and was the first in my family to attend college. Literacy can level the playing field. I know because I have lived it !
I was a teacher for many years including a teacher of the year nominee. I also taught reading courses at the college level to students studying to become a teacher. Finally, I have written many teacher resource materials and even an award winning children’s book!

How did the idea for your app come about?

I thought  reading software  desperately needed some improvements. Most good teachers will tell you that we have students read all the questions before reading the passage. This builds purpose to the reading. The reader has something in mind before they begin reading. This dynamic is called metacognition and study after study tells us it is crucial to reading comprehension. Next, I thought the passages read like encyclopedia entries. Kids , like adults, want interesting things to read . It helps them want to read more !

My app contains an entire passage about the position of Lincoln’s hands at his memorial. Parents and teachers tell me the kids love it and go on Wikipedia to learn more !And the way the questions and answers were structured it was more like a dressed up video game with questions flashing on the screen. My apps are structured where kids can go back and re-read and change their answer if they so desire Re-reading for understanding is , too, part of being a good reader. Finally, I thought reading comprehension questions should be labeled [ main idea , vocabulary, etc.] so that kids, parents and/or teachers knew what kind of questions were being answered correctly and incorrectly.

 iPhone Screenshot 2

And how long was the process from the original idea to the release of the app?

This app took almost a year from inception to availability. The reason for this length of time is that I worked with teachers who reviewed the reading levels and tested it with students. I also worked with an education think tank and received their feedback.

Did you hire a developer or do it yourself?

Due in part to my background as a teacher and writer, I developed all the content, and I thought it was important the person designing the function of the app had some knowledge about kids and learning. I designed the app to give the child a tutoring like experience . For instance, they must demonstrate competency with plot, setting, and characters before moving to the 3rd grade passages. The app also lets kids know what kind of questions [ main idea, vocabulary, etc.] they are missing. At the end, they will have questions based upon performance in previous 25 chapters .

I did hire a programmer to do all the coding.

What has been the hardest obstacle you have had to overcome in the development process?

I would say finding and retaining good, reliable programmers.

Have you had much support during the development process (from family, peers, Apple Inc.)?

I have had a lot of support family and friends have encouraged me on this very important mission . They, like me, believe literacy is crucial to level the playing field.

What are your plans for the future? Will you be developing any more apps?

Yes. I am currently developing more reading apps.

What sort of feedback has your app been receiving so far?

I am thrilled with the response from across the globe. The app was even recognized at a reading conference, I have even had several interviews including one for television ! The best part is that I hear from teachers and parents about how the app is helping kids.

And finally, what advice would you give to anyone considering creating their own app?

Be an expert in the field of which you are developing an app.

Thank you so much for talking with us today and sharing a bit about your experiences in app development.  We really appreciated the chance to get to know you!

3rd Grade  Reading Guarantee Prep: Comprehension Practice 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee Prep: Comprehension Practice by Reinvent Recess Digital, LLC

Price: $7.99 USD

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