What makes a good Book App? Reviews plus Giveaway

IMG_6270With the Easter holidays looming, many of us are planning a little getaway, so now’s a great time to stock up the iPad to help entertain the kids during travel and downtime. Rather than fill up your cases with heaps of the kids favorite books, try out some great book apps to help lighten the luggage load. The iPad lends itself wonderfully to the reading of an ‘eBook’ – a digital interpretation of a traditional book. Indeed book apps are an excellent way to engage less motivated readers and to develop early literacy skills. So you’d think all the enhancements that book apps can bring to a digital story would deepen the engagement of readers and generate enthusiasm for all things bookish, yes? Or do the facts agree?

Book Apps
Image courtesy of aperturismo / Creative Commons. Source: Flickr.com

In fact preliminary research from the Joan Ganz Cooney center in the US suggests the interactive features in eBooks can actually distract from a child’s comprehension of the storyline, making simple digitized versions of print books a much better choice when comprehension is the main aim. The study observed that:

“Children who read enhanced e-books recalled significantly fewer narrative details than children who read the print version of the same story.”

Having said that, my boys adore quality interactive books with as many buttons, whistles and puzzles as possible – and I’m OK with that. The key is balance. The folk at Joan Ganz Cooney agree there is also a place for digital books that are ‘just for fun’ and that serve to further the appeal of reading in general. We’ve already seen a few game changer apps such ans the ‘Fantastic Flying Book of Mr. Morris Lessmore,’ which has been called the future of children’s eBooks. You must check out this gem of an app if you have not yet seen it. Just click on images below to take you to the app store page.

Morris Lessmore    Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 9.28.42 pm

Times are changing, technology will advance and it’s our job to help kids understand how to make good choices regarding the technologies they choose to engage with. I treat plain digital book apps and interactive book apps as two different experiences: akin to story puzzle books and traditional reading books. Both have a place. The key is not to forgo the plainer digitized style book apps for the flash enhanced ones with lots of buttons just because they look more impressive. Additionally in our house neither style of app has in anyway diminished my boys appetite for traditional print books, which they still devour with a delightful voracity every day.

Whilst some books apps have heaps of buttons, animations and puzzles requiring logic and ingenuity, some are literally electronic versions of the print book you have on your shelf at home. Most of the Dr Seuss books are a case in point for the latter – the pages turn, the images are generally static and the most interactive feature is when you touch an object onscreen, you hear that object named – such as ‘grass’ or ‘girl’. You can read the story yourself or you can have it narrated. And guess what, The Cat in the Hat’s ‘There’s No Place Like Space’ is one of my youngest’s favourite book apps, no bells required.

When choosing book apps make wise choices by considering the following:

1) Background music is very distracting. Choose apps where you can turn it off.

2) ALL iPad time is majorly enhanced by co-playing with your child. Read the books with them and they will benefit from conversation and social interaction as well as enjoying story time. Just make sure your time is spent focusing on the story and not distracted by continually adjusting or troubleshooting the device.

3) Books where the story is fairly plain but there are puzzles and activities at the end are particularly good

4) Do not use any devices within two hours of bedtime. The ‘blue light’ – IE the back-light from the device, shines a type of light into your eyes that tells your brain to stay awake. Not great for getting the littlies to sleep, so print books are still best for bedtime.

So who makes a good traditional style book app?

Nosy crow AppsThe app makers Nosy Crow are reliable creators of some of the best book apps out there. Luckily for us they have decided to interpret childhood favourites such as The Three Little Pigs, Jack and the Beanstalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and most recently, Snow White. They have turned beautiful artwork combined with simple interaction into a recipe for reading success.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 8.44.17 pmIf your kids have any favourite authors then it’s absolutely worthwhile doing a search for that author on the app store. A search for Nick Bland was just such an example for us. We’re big fans of The Very Cranky Bear and The Wrong Book and both have wonderful app versions available which even allow you to record your own narration.

Heart and bottle appWe also can’t get enough of Oliver Jeffers and I was thrilled to discover one of his books also has a beautiful app, narrated by Helena Bonham Carter. It’s pricier at AU$7.49 though. But lovely writer of sweet whimsical tales.

Butterfly kissesEric Carle’s books are always good value and this app version is no exception. It will appeal to very young readers with minimal interaction but lovely depictions of his beautiful artwork. Has great creative activities at the end.

Screen Shot 2015-03-22 at 9.12.16 pmDr Seuss books as mentioned above have a huge range of apps which for the most part are faithful depictions of the books, with minimal interaction.

Lemon Tree booksI have recently discovered The Lemon Tree Book Company makers of a cute personalised story book app. By entering your own info you make your child the hero of the book. Additionally if you buy one of their craft packs you can then create a print of that personalised book on your home printer via the Lemon Tree website. The app contains a generous eight books and offers no in app purchases. Whilst the books are targeted for ages three to six there is no narration available so younger children will definitely need adult participation to enjoy the app. An option to record your own narration would be a useful addition for future updates and would widen the appeal.

DD2 amazonThe folks at Lemon Tree have offered four lucky Flying Start Kids readers the chance to win one of their book craft packs which includes a glossy cover for your home made book, stickers and fun facts. I reckon making our personalised book will be a great rainy day activity for the boys and I to do together.

To win a book pack all you have to do is:

1) Like Flying Start Kids on Facebook

2) Visit the Lemon Tree Company Book Pack page and decide which pack you’d like to win. Let us know your choice in the comments below, along with your kids favourite author or favourite book app.

Competition closes Sunday 5th April 2015 and is open worldwide. Winners will be notified via this page on Sunday 5th so make sure to check your email for a reply to your comment! Good Luck!

Want ideas for more interactive book apps? Check out this previous post: Brilliant Book Apps to Enthrall All

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12 comments

  1. Private Detective at the Zoo 🙂 My kids don’t have a favourite author but they really love the Robert Munsch Books and anything by Sandra Boynton is good fun too 🙂 andrea_hockeygirl at hotmail dot com

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