In the past few years, the popularity of digital books has skyrocketed through eReaders like Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, and tablet computers like Apple’s iPad. These portable devices allow you to take thousands of books wherever you go, ready to read in seconds.
While digital books and the devices to read them have been typically marketed at adults, children’s books are making their way into digital format. Possibilities for sound, animation, and interactivity have made touch-screen devices like the iPad and iPhone particularly engaging for children.
I wondered if any of these interactive additions are particularly conducive to enhancing literacy skills. (After all, it may be difficult to justify purchasing an expensive gadget when you could easily get these books for free at your local library). I downloaded a few free children’s books on the iPad and consulted with Michele Rodgers, a literacy specialist at Foundations, Inc. She suggested that I should read Lotta Larson’s article from Reading Teacher, Digital Readers: The Next Chapter in E-Book Reading and Response. Ms. Larson points out “digital reading devices, such as the Amazon Kindle and iPad, can advance e-book readership among primary students by offering new avenues for accessing and interacting with a wide array of texts.” Rooted in the transactional theory of reader response and a new literacies perspective, her case study examines the reading and response behaviors of two second grade girls as they read a book on a digital reading device. Larson’s findings suggest that using digital reading devices with second grade students promotes the practice of new literacies, and that engagement with and manipulation of text extends connections between readers and text.
After reading the article, I researched electronic texts and found ebooks, ranked by age, suggested by Warren Buckleitner in a New York Times article, The Best Children’s Books on the iPad. Below is a selection of the ebooks Mr. Buckleitner recommends in his blog entry (note that text has been copied from the original article):
Go, Clifford, Go! ($5) is one of Scholastic’s first e-books, which, along with I Love You Through and Through (also $5) lets you tilt the screen to make cars move, trees sway, and waves roll. Ages 2-up.
PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit ($5) respectfully presents Beatrix Potter’s classic illustrations on the multi-touch screen, with touch-and-hear text, and pull-tabs that pull you into the action elements of the story.
Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed ($3) Eileen Christelow’s color pencil illustrations help a child learn to read, by connecting the words with the pictures, at the touch of a finger.
The Three Little Pigs ($8) is one of the best renditions of the classic story in the app store. Besides excellent graphics and sounds, you get to help the wolf blow down the houses by way of the iPad’s microphone
Ultimate Dinopedia: The Most Complete Dinosaur Reference, ($6) puts the embellished details of 600 dinosaurs at your fingertips, as if dinosaurs needed any embellishments.
Wild About Books ($5) is an expertly adapted version of the printed Judy Sierra book, with 16 Marc Brown watercolor illustrations that celebrate the book, in every form, by way of quality narration and hidden surprises
Nancy Drew Mobile Mysteries: Shadow Ranch ($10) Choose your own path through the book-inspired story, while you find clues hidden in the text.
Cinderella ($2) There are beautiful 3-D transitions between pages and an orchestrated soundtrack.
The Penguins of Madagascar ($7) Two e-books: record-your-own-narration plus mazes, coloring and an open-ended kaleidoscope
Magic School Bus: Oceans ($8 or a free lite version) Ms. Frizzle’s iPad debut includes videos and facts about underwater life.
Solar System for iPad ($14) If science posters were interactive, this is what they’d look like. Ages 10-up
As these new technologies continue to grow, educators need to expand the types of texts students are exposed to and engaged with at school by turning attention to ebooks. Students reading digital books can improve their literacy skills while enjoying all the whistles and bells.