For more on Literacy 2.0 and reading with your children, check out the Share a Story / Shape a Future event. Bloggers across the Kidlitosphere are writing on this topic today.
eBooks for younger readers
The iPad and other full color tablets like the Xoom are quickly changing the way young children can experience digital books. For a long time, picture books have been available on computers, but that format is more difficult for young children. The iPad lets little kids hold the digital book in their hands, up close. More than that, it allows young children to interact with a book in some similar ways they interact with a printed book, and in some new ways too.
Many eBook apps are being developed of the iPhone and iPad which add touch screen interactive quality to picture books. These eBook apps typically combine narration, text highlighted for children to track and practice their reading, touch screen features, and perhaps games or additional materials. You can cuddle with your child and read the book together, and then they can read it on their own with the narration.
But I am surprised how parents are not discovering these eBook apps. Friends with young children still often see their iPad and iPhone apps as the place for free games to entertain their child. A $3.99 eBook seems expensive for an app, but cheap for a book. I hope that more and more parents explore the eBooks available for their young children. Some of my favorite eBook apps for the iPad / iPhone include:
- Magic School Bus: Oceans (ages 6-10)
- Green Eggs and Ham (ages 2-8)
- PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit (ages 3 - 7)
- Scruffy Kitty (ages 2 - 5)
- The Birthday (ages 2 - 5)
Middle grade and teen readers
Middle grade and teen readers are starting to buy eBooks for their pleasure reading. Several publishers have noted that sales started increasing after the 2010 holiday season, perhaps indicating that children were starting to get their own Kindles, Nooks and other e-readers. While many kids are enjoying experimenting with e-readers, children's reading habits are different from adults. Most notably, children read many more books than adults, typically reading two to four books a month. Children also use their school and public library much more than adults. While public libraries are experimenting with making eBooks available through providers such as Overdrive, this is at the early stages and large library systems still only have a few copies.
Soon, however, the price of e-readers will come down, and tweens and teens will start reading more eBooks. I have noticed that many kids don't worry about the format of the story. As long as it's comfortable to read, what they really care about is falling into a story they can relate to, a story their friends are talking about, a story that hooks them. And kids want to be able to find the story they want to read quickly and easily. They're not going to spend a lot of time negotiating the library website, downloading a book to the computer, and then transferring it to their device.
Important things to think about
As I watch children around me start to experiment with reading on different digital devices, I think there are some important things to keep in mind. Yes, the story is the most important thing they care about. Does it capture their imagination? But their experiences also shape their expectations. As they read interactive eBooks, they come to expect their stories to react to their motions. I think children will be adept at making print books react in their imaginations by adding sound effects and zooming books around. But on screens, their experiences will reinforce their expectations.
Children's reading experiences need to help their developmental process. Young children need print to be large and spaced so they can identify individual words easily. Older children enjoy larger words, but they also need help decoding unfamiliar words. Older readers would enjoy using a feature which would say aloud and define words they are getting stuck on.
Our children are reading voraciously, both for their own pleasure and as part of school assignments (for a fascinating survey, read about the recent survey by the Association of Booksellers for Children). They will read both print books and digital eBooks. The question for parents is how can we support their reading experiences so that they enjoy reading? After all, the old saying is true: the more you read, the better you get, and the more you enjoy it.
©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.
Share a Story / Shape a Future image created by Elizabeth O. Dulemba. Images from Wayan Vota, Tadahito Onozawa, and The Next Web used under Creative Commons