Tuesday, January 17, 2012

E-Reading with Young Children

Are e-books as good, better or worse than traditional books? Are they 'bad' for young readers? How can you use them in the classroom or at home with your child... just a few questions I hope to answer in this post!

I was not very impressed with the first e-books I downloaded. While most were ok, they weren't GREAT and certainly not something I would pay for or even read over and over to my children. Yet, when I go to the library, I suppose I could say the same thing- out of the thousands of books available not all are as good as I'd like. Some of my favorite authors- Eric Carle, Jan Brett, Mo Williams, Kevin Henkes, are no brainers- if they wrote it I will probably like it. Other books are more of a risk- maybe I will want to pull my hair out after the second reading.

A good story touches the reader, and/or the illustrations and wording are so beautiful, funny, or poignant you can't seem to read the story too many times. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, No David, and Anne of Green Gables are just a few I love.

No matter how flashy an app book is, if the story is not interesting, the kids won't read it. To find a great ebook, start with a good book! Great e-books have options to read on your own (with the option to hear individual books read aloud by touching the word), listen to a narrator, and even record a loved one reading the book. Great e-books should have animations and sound effects that enhance the story. I think e-readers will be especially helpful to children learning a second language. One of my daughters beloved stories is the Little Red Hen. She likes the version told in Spanisn/English for the iPad. One of the best features of an ebook I have seen is in the Monster at the End of the Book story starring Grover. It has a little pop up for parents with suggestions on questions to ask your child to help with comprehension and enjoyment. On the home page there is a parent article with information on talking with your child about fears. The activities are completely related to the original idea of the book- Grover attempting to keep the reader from turning the page. For $3.99 the app is adorable, funny and true to the original story while adding some fabulous and fun features.

When I saw the board books by Sandra Boynton were being made into apps for the iPad I couldn't resist and I bought one. The Going to Bed Book has been a favorite story of mine to read to children for a over decade. I am sure I have a copy of it SOMEWHERE but I wanted to read it right then to my daughter. The price was reasonable (currently $3.99) and my card had some $$$ on it.
Am I glad I did- this book is a wonderful example of an interactive story for children while retaining the simple humor and beautiful prose. The animations and interaction options do not detract from the story, rather they enhance it. The background music is peaceful (and has an easy volume control on the opening page of the app). The narrator reads in a soothing voice.

What makes the book BETTER than the original board book is the way the animations and sound effects enhance the story, build vocabulary and help children understand concepts. The porthole shuts with a metal clunk, the sink squeaks on and steam fogs the screen- your child can even write their name in the steam. The boat sways on the water when you tilt the iPad/iPod and even the view of the water seen through the portholes tilt too. You can read this to a child in the SAME way as a board book-chose I want to read it myself- so it's certainly just as good as a book (it even uses a page turning motion). However, when your child wants to read independently they can- and they will. They can read to themselves, touch a word for help, or listen to the story. This book will draw them in, night after night. It helps that I like to read it too!

Another ebook that my children (and I) enjoy is Sir Charlie Stinky Socks and the Really Big Adventure. The book was $4.99 upon last check, and I believe I got to download it while it was free. I have no problem paying for a book- especially since it can't get wet or ripped and I won't have to add it to the overflowing bookshelves in my house. It's also nice that I can pull it out wherever I am- because where I go my device goes. My kids like the story and illustrations and I like the features. You can read it in book mode on your own, the narrator can read it in playback mode (and it's easy to pause so you can discuss the story too), or you can even record yourself (or your child) reading it and play that back. While having the app read the story it highlights the word being read.

I will try to add more of my favorite e-books on here tomorrow and finish answering some of the questions I started with!


  1. In my opinion, young children should read traditional books. I downloaded many eBooks for my kids, but I don't like to lecture them on an e-reader...it's not the same thing. I love to have those heavy printed books in my hands, not on a little device. By the way, I enjoyed reading your article. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for sharing this information. I am buying an ipad2 for my classroom and I do not have little children at home to "try" things out with ahead of time. So I really appreciate your thoughts.


  3. Today's kiddos are 'Digital Natives.' Reading ebooks or traditional books are great in their own ways! Children should be introduced to both, as well as audio books! Every child should have the opportunity to a good set of books and authors and if the kiddo doesn't get that at home, then hopefully their teacher/school can make up for that. Either way, kiddos are engaged with good ebooks or listening to a reading from a traditional book if they are not fluent readers....hopefully the person reading to them does the book justice and puts on a show while reading!


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