Epic! is sort of like Netflix or Spotify, but for books. More than 25,000 of them available for free to students and teachers everywhere. If kids want the same experience at home, parents can pay a subscription fee of about $8 a month. We visited a classroom at Aeolian Elementary School in Whittier, California where Epic! is being used.
What is it?
Epic! is an app that works on a variety of devices including the iPad and Chromebooks. Teachers can download the app and create collections for their students to read, based on what they're learning in the classroom. Access to the app is totally free as long as the students are in the classroom. Fifth-grade literature and history teacher Hanh Bui has used Epic for the past two years.
"I can quickly find a book and call a group in and say alright, let’s read about this, let’s learn about this," explained Bui.
There are over 25,000 books from major publishers including Harper Collins, MacMillian and National Geographic Kids. You can sort books by reading level, age, topics and more. There are books that can "read to you" and highlight words as they go along so kids can become more confident readers. There are also quizzes for certain books that test reading proficiency.
One aspect parents will enjoy are the weekly reports they can get about what their kids are reading. They contain the books they've browsed, how many pages they're turned and how long they spent reading.
"What we want to do is let the parents see how the child is improving with the reading and show the parent some of the interests their child has around reading," explained Epic! co-founder Kevin Donahue in a Skype interview.
Using Epic! at Home
Epic! is completely free for use while kids are in the classroom. Teachers must share a log in code so students access their books. If they want the same experience at home, parents can subscribe. Subscriptions run about $8 a month but teachers may have access to special offers for students who want to subscribe at home. The home subscription is completely optional and doesn't affect the in-class experience. I'm guessing that Epic! hopes kids love the service at school and convince their parents to pay at home. When you think about the price, it's a pretty great value for unlimited books.
Epic! doesn't have ads and there is no social networking aspect. The app is geared for kids 12 and under.
"We don't enable kids to connect and chat or message each other, or anything like that. It's really just a content consumption platform," explained Donahue.
If there is one flaw to Epic!, parents will probably appreciate it:
"I’ll tell you a downside," said Bui. "Can I keep reading? Can I keep reading!!!" Sounds like a problem teachers and parents would love to have.