Three Jewish teachers from Australia have transformed their Jewish educational children’s books, called Mish and Mush, into iOS apps for the iPhone, iPod and iPad that have been purchased by people from all around the world.
“Kids absolutely love it,” said Shani Diamond, 57, one of the three co-founders of the Mish and Mush books.
“It’s an interactive way for them to learn the aleph beit. They can touch on the letters, and they actually say it out loud together,” she said. “It’s a fantastic teaching tool.”
Since the first Mish and Mush book came out 10 years ago, Diamond, along with Nissa Niasoff and Baila Teleshevsky, have printed 25 different stories about these Jewish characters.
“There weren’t a lot of books out there for Jewish kids at the time,” said Diamond. “We were just sitting one day, the three of us, and… we just brainstormed and these characters came up.”
Since launching their iPhone and iPad apps in August, they’ve had more than 500 downloads from people in countries around the world, and requests to translate the app into Spanish, Russian and Hebrew.
Currently, the iOS app can be downloaded for free, with the option of purchasing additional in-app stories.
In the app, which is geared toward children aged two to six, kids can easily learn the Hebrew alphabet, even choosing Sephardi or Ashkenazi pronunciation, through a story called Let’s All Run, Let’s All Race, Let’s All Catch the Alef Bais, where kids are taken on an adventure to catch the Hebrew letters, which are whizzing around on screen.
Another popular story, called Where Did All These Leaves Come From? explains how God created the world.
“We want to get good morals and good mitzvahs coming across to kids in a fun, loving way,” Diamond said. “The main thing is to be educational in a fun way with Jewish themes.”
Younger kids can choose to have the story read to them electronically, or they can flip through the pages on their own.
“One of my friends has a little 18-month-old kid and she says ‘iPad, iPad’ already, and it’s just crazy,” Diamond said.
The apps also come with a free Mish and Match game for kids to match letters in order to practise the Hebrew alphabet.
Diamond and her team come up with the stories and Niasoff illustrates them, but the hardest part comes after the writing is done.
“We have a Jewish guy in South Africa who does the app work, but he was outsourcing to India, and he wakes up when I’m going to bed, and I’m trying to tell him about the aleph beit,” said Diamond. “It was just hilarious. We just do conference calls now.”
For these busy mothers and teachers, this is just the beginning. They want to create more apps with Jewish educational games, and they plan to come out with new books in February, including ones for Jewish holidays.
“The feedback is that there are no good educational Jewish games for kids,” said Diamond.
She would also love to start creating games to help teach Israeli kids the English alphabet.
“It would be like our aleph beit game, but the reverse, for Hebrew-speaking kids to learn better English,” she said.