I've been particularly fascinated by non-fiction book apps. The best of these integrate well written nonfiction text, vibrant full-color photographs and videos, interactive features that help students experiment and engage with the topics, and narration that makes the content accessible for a wide range of children. Here are some of my favorites that I shared today:
Bats: Furry Fliers in the Night
by Mary Kay Carson
developed by Bookerella and StoryWorldwide, 2012
note: price drop right now to $0.99!!
This is an original book app written by Mary Kay Carson, a prolific nonfiction author who also wrote The Bat Scientists as part of the Scientists in the Field series. She layers clear text with interesting diagrams, photographs, and interactive features. The design elements are top-notch, providing just the right amount of zing to keep kids engaged without distracting them at all from the essence of the material. Listen to my podcast review from Katie Davis's Brain Burps About Books:
Bobo Explores Light
by Game Collage, 2011
Many of my 4th and 5th grade students have had so much fun reading this, coming back to it again and again. Bobo the robot guides readers through information on light, inviting interaction in both serious and silly ways. There are short videos embedded in the app that offer even more information. One of the strengths of this app is that it uses so many different formats to provide information on light. Watch the trailer to get a sense of Bobo's fun:
National Geographic Explorer
by National Geographic, 2012
currently 4 issues free
National Geographic has just released this app as a digital version of its classroom magazine National Geographic Explorer for grades 2-6. You buy the app (free) from the app store, and then you download issues from within the app. It is clearly set up for in-app purchases of individual magazine issues. What sets this apart is the way that the developers have layered in many different multimedia ways of exploring information, especially in the Young Explorer issues.
The article "Looking at Lemurs" by Mireya Mayor in the Young Explorers issue is an example of the best of nonfiction book apps for young readers. You listen to a scientist introducing us to the topic, you watch videos of scientists in the field studying lemurs, and you can have the text read aloud by a narrator. The issues for older readers are more text heavy - my students would certainly be drawn in by a greater variety of multimedia, whether it is narrated text, more embedded videos, or interactive features.
Finding book apps for kids
The biggest challenge in sharing book apps with students is finding high quality apps. In librarian terms, this is collection development or curation. The App Store is terrible; you can easily find the newest and the most popular apps, but it is very difficult to find more than that. I regularly turn to the following sources to read about book apps. All provide thoughtful, high quality reviews:
- Kirkus Reviews: iPad Book Apps
- School Library Journal: Touch and Go Blog
- Digital Storytime
- Children's Technology Review
- Cybils Book App Award
- The Horn Book
- AASL task force on the top 25 apps for curriculum (to come)
Barefoot World Atlas, saying that her kindergartners and 1st graders had found it fascinating and easy to use. I'll definitely be checking into this. Word of mouth is still the most reliable source of information.
Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books