Friday, April 15, 2011

Children's Book Apps: A New World Of Learning

For all the parent with iPads and other e-readers, it may be time to hand over your gadgets to the kids!

Via NPR

If you have a smartphone or an iPad, you can download a kids' book app in no time. From classics to stories created specifically as an app, these enhanced e-books include narration, animation and interactive features. Some children are even getting their first exposure to books on a digital device.

Kripalani also has a 2-year-old daughter, Kentia, who loves reading Dr. Seuss — on her father's iPad.

"Boy, she can navigate on that thing — it's incredible," Kripalani says. "There's something about a child's ability to navigate by touching what they want, and I believe that's the magic here. It's just that the child is able to touch the tree or touch the bird or touch the word that they don't know, and that's really one of the things that just changes everything."

"As the app is reading the book, the individual words are highlighting," he explains, "so the child is getting an association between what they are hearing and the actual word that's being spoken at the time. They can also touch on any of the pictures and they get a picture word association, so if the child taps on the cat for example, the letters C-A-T float up and the narrator speaks in a clear voice: cat."

"What a 2- to 4-year-old wants in an app is to poke and be satisfied," says Richter. "So Milo has 80 different touch points and 125 different animations — and they are randomized, so every time the child enters, it's a different experience."



Other book apps developed by Ruckus are less interactive, but they might offer other options: substituting a well-known actor's narration with a parent's voice, for example. Richter says the possibilities are endless. He believes these apps are an entirely new art form.

"People ask, 'Are you creating books, are you creating games or are you creating animations?' " he says. "The answer is yes. That's what we set out to do — books you can play with and games you can read."

However, there are some detractors who say this new breed of children's "books" are not really books at all.

"One is that in a traditional reading experience, the reader is in charge," Nel says. "The reader acts on the book. With an interactive e-book, the reader does still act on the book, but the book also acts on, and depending on the adaptation, against the reader. So I would say it's not a book, it's maybe a relative of the book. But it's not quite a book."

Elizabeth Bird, a children's librarian at the New York Public Library, agrees that some of the bells and whistles in kids' book apps are distracting. She says it's important that all of the artwork and interactive features in an app are well integrated with the story. Obviously, not all apps are equal, she says, but the ones that get it right can take a book to a whole new level.
Read the entire article here.

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