Thursday, May 3, 2018

Enhancing our Homeschool with Digital Books from Weigl Publishers {A TOS Review}

I love finding new books for the children to read. While I usually prefer physical copies of books, I am beginning to appreciate the benefits of digital books. With all the new technology out there, it is cool to see how books can be enhanced to help our homeschool. We just so happened to receive three such ebooks for review from Weigl Publishers. These "Added Value" and "Audio Visual" books sure have been an interesting addition to our homeschool. 

Thanks to the Homeschool Review Crew, we received three fun, digital books.  We received A Lion's World from the EyeDiscover Series, the fiction book There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant by Helen Ketteman, and Glaciers from the series Earth's Water, which is published under Weigl's imprint Lightbox. Each of these books have different media enhanced aspects.

Let's take a closer look at each of these books. 

A Lion's World

This 24-page non-fiction book gives the young reader simple, yet fun facts about lions paired with stunning photographs of lions in the wild. The story is told in first person, as if the lion is talking right to the reader. Each double page spread includes one image which takes up the entire two pages, along with some information 1-2 sentences in length. You'll learn about such things as the lions roar, how fast he can run, and family dynamics. 

The book concludes with a couple of pages of additional facts that focus on numbers, such as how long a lion sleeps each day and how many pounds of meat they eat each day. The back cover lists the sight words and content words included in the book, and explains how they help beginning readers. 

This book is a sweet, informative book that is recommended for children in grades K-2. Personally I can see preschoolers enjoying the book as well. It is definitely a book beginning readers could read, perhaps with some help if necessary. 

At the beginning of the book there are instructions on how to access the media enhanced content. For this title we had to go to and enter the code provided. To ensure we really own the book, we then have to type in a specific word found in the book. As simply as that, we now have access to the media enhanced version of the book. With this title from the EyeDiscover series, we are treated to video content on each page that corresponds to the picture from the ebook. We can also choose to read it ourselves or have the narrator read it to us. 

We all enjoyed watching the short video, which plays on a loop; even the older girls were intrigued. Hannah's favorite part seems to have been learning that lions greet each other by rubbing heads, because now she will come up to me and rub her head to mine in greeting. We really enjoyed that we could hear the sound in the video. Listening to the lion roar was just amazing. What a wonderful way to bring a book to life for children.

There Once Was a Cowpoke Who Swallowed an Ant 

If you can't tell, this 32-page fiction picture book is patterned after the familiar story of the old lady who swallows a fly. In fact, this was a favorite song of mine when I was a child, so I was quite curious to see how this story would go. 

In this version of the tale, there is a cowboy or cowpoke who lives somewhere in what appears to be the Wild West. We never do know why the poor guy thought it was a good idea to swallow a red fire ant (so much worse than that fly) but he spends the rest of the story swallowing other creatures native to the western United States in an attempt to get rid of that fiery, burning insect. Though, you may question this guy's wisdom even more when you read that he swallows such things as a spiky, horned lizard, a rattlesnake, a boar with sharp tusks that jabbed him, and then follows that up with a longhorn with even sharper body parts. 

This hilarious, nonsensical tale made us scratch our heads just a bit when we read what he did last to get rid of all those animals in his belly. I am happy to say that, unlike the old lady, this crazy guy does not end up dead, though that would be the logical consequence of swallowing all those animals.

Moving on to the media enhanced content, we again had to find the code in the book and put it into the box over on the website. This time we accessed it through the Weigl Publishers website. And yes, we did have to find the specified word in the book that acts as a password. With this title we were treated to a readalong version of the book.

As you can see from the screenshot, you can choose to have the book read to you, or you can read it yourself (or have a child read it). You may be wondering what the point of having the media enhanced book would be if you are going to read it yourself anyway. What I like is that when you hover over a section of the text, it will read it for you. So, a child could attempt to read the book, but if they get stuck it could be read to them. Or they could listen first, and then attempt it on their own. Though I do wish there was a way to highlight a word at a time, instead of an entire phrase. 

When you choose to read the book yourself, you do have to turn the page by clicking the "Next" button. However, when you choose "Read to Me" the computer does all the work. As a phrase is read, it is highlighted so the child can follow along. When a page is finished, it moves on to the next page. 

Another thing we really liked about the readalong is that the book is read by a narrator, but the cowpoke's lines are read by another person, so it helps to bring the story to life. When I'm reading it myself, I just can't do different voices. Plus there are some added sound effects, such as when the cowpoke is swallowing and different sounds for the animals.

Again, this picture book is recommended for children in grades K-2. Due to the rhyme and repetition, I would say older preschoolers would also like this book. My older girls thought it was hilariously impossible and weird, but they really enjoyed it too. We do tend to read lots of different types of books in our homeschool, picture books included.

Glaciers from the series Earth's Water

This 24-page non-fiction book is full of fascinating details about glaciers. Children will learn what a glacier is, the different parts of a glacier's body, how glaciers are grouped, how they move (along with information about glacial movement over time, which is taught from an old earth perspective, so we sort of skipped that section), where they are found in the world along with their names and their size, among other interesting facts. Some of these facts were a bit above what the children were able to comprehend, so we focused on the information that was a bit easier. I figure we can come back to the book at a later date to review and learn the more advanced information. 

The book is full of photos and diagrams to help give the children a visual of what is being learned. 

There is quite a bit of text on each page, along with the little tidbits of information added in with the images. I also discovered that there are some helpful notetaking features in this downloadable, ebook. 

When you select a word or phrase by left clicking and scrolling over it, you can choose to highlight it (using one of four different colors), jot down a note, copy, or click on the blue circle to "Ask Cortana" to discover further details. 

In the above screenshot, I had the word "snow" selected and I clicked "Ask Cortana," then the information popped up on the right side of the screen. What I find intriguing is that this content is accessible without even getting into the media enhanced aspect of the book.

At the back of the book there is a quiz and a hands-on science experiment, along with Key Words with their definition and an Index. The digital book concludes with information about getting access to the media enhanced content through Lightbox.

As with the other two books, we found the access code on the second page of the book.

This page tells us which website to go to in order to access the media enhanced content. In this case we had to go to After putting in the code I did have to come back to the book for the password (as usual). As you can see above, there are a lot of features available in Lightbox. There is audio, which we weren't quite a fan of as it was text-to-speech and it sounded a bit robotic to us. There are wonderful high-definition video clips embedded in the book. In the digital version there are lots of pictures, but in the Lightbox version some of those pictures will include a play button which opens up the full screen video. There are also printable activities, weblinks, slideshows, transparencies, interactive maps, quizzes and key words. 

So, let's take a look at this media enhanced book.

Here is the website where I had to enter the access code and password. 

It then opens to the following screen:

After I click "Open Lightbox" the menu comes up.

From here we can choose to go to a specific page, or we can click through the book in order. You can see each of the icons on the bottom of the screen for all the media enhanced features. There are standard features and supplementary resources. When you click on the icons of the different standard features the thumbnails will light up showing the pages that offer that feature. When you click on the icons for the supplementary resources a new page will open with the information. The "Activities" button opens up the entire Activity Pack, which are the worksheets that go with the different pages. "Curriculum" will give you the information for common core standards, which we don't concern ourselves with. Finally, "Follett Collections" opens up a page with more activities, complete with lesson plans, articles to read, and videos to watch. With all this supplemental information you could spend a lot of time learning about glaciers. 

The icons on the left side of the page show which features are available on the current page. 

This page features audio, video, and a weblink. The polar bear in the circle on the left hand page was just a picture in the digital book. Here you will be able to watch a video about Glacier Watching. Here is a screenshot from the video:

And clicking on the Weblink globe will open up an article on polar bears. So much additional information, and this is just the first two pages of the book.

Throughout this book, there are a total of four videos, three weblinks, one slideshow, four transparencies, one interactive map, and two quizzes. 

We worked our way through the book, reading the text, checking out the bold words to learn the definition, and clicking on clickable links, such as the videos. Then the children worked on some of the worksheets, focusing on the body of a glacier and where they are found on the globe. I had clicked on the Activities link and pulled up the entire worksheet packet, but you can also click the pencil icon if available on a page to access that lesson's worksheet.

You could choose to print out the quizzes or take them online. I actually printed them out before I realized the children could take the quiz online. I liked that the online quiz was multiple choice.

Of course, we had to try out the hands-on science experiment in which we explored how glaciers melting would rise sea levels. 

We are actually going to try the experiment again, because we found that the water level was actually higher before the ice melted. I'm sure the experiment is trying to show that the melting glaciers will cause the seas to rise. However, as my family and I were thinking about it, we were realizing this doesn't quite make sense. When water freezes, it expands. So when the ice melted in the bowl, it made sense that the water level was actually lower. I realize I'm not a scientist, but we aren't sure how melting glaciers will add to the sea level. 

Glaciers is recommended for children in grades 3-6. I would say this is an accurate age range. The detail of the information and the length of the reading passages would be a bit much for younger students. Though Hannah and Harold did join us in watching the videos, playing around with the transparencies, and working on the science experiment. I would also say slightly older children would learn new details from this book. 

Weigl Publishers has hundreds of books available in many different subjects. In fact, if you go to the website, you can try out the Live Demo of the book I Am An Elephant. Though I will say, there are different features that are not included with the books we received. I'm sure you can tell, all these books have different media enhanced features depending upon which series it is a part of. 

We really enjoyed all three of these books and the different ways they were enhanced for our enjoyment and education. Of course, as I mentioned above, the text-to-speech audio in Glaciers was a bit annoying, so I did the reading of that book. I also wanted to mention that we prefered reading the details found in the diagrams in the digital Glaciers book, as they were clearer and easier to read. All in all, I have to say, I can definitely recommend these media enhanced books. 

Don't forget, you can click on the banner below to see what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about these books.

Multimedia Digital Books {Weigl Publishers Reviews}
Crew Disclaimer

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