The objective of our iPad Digital Storytime is to help children make the connection between digital media and physical books, and to extend the story with other activities whenever possible. Early reading skills such as predicting outcome, developing vocabulary, and reading comprehension are also incorporated into the program.
We look for apps that are based on actual children’s books but also include apps that have the qualities found in good literature for children in any format. Sometimes we even include some educational games or music – but our main focus is on literature and encouraging children to love reading.
In our experiences with apps and digital storytelling, we have learned that apps come in a wide range of prices. Many are free, but some of those include distracting ads. Some have in-app purchases, which we think are not the best choice for children or for our programs. App prices change from time to time as publishers offer temporary discounts. Some have even gone “out of print” and are no longer available! One of the resources that we use for finding apps that are free or on sale is Smart Apps for Kids: www.smartappsforkids.com. Smart Apps offers a free email newsletter that arrives each day with lists of apps (including apps for kids with special needs) that are available at a discount for that day only. Before purchasing an app, you can find reviews on the Internet by searching for the app by name combined with the word “reviews.”
The apps below were used during the December Holiday Fun iPad storytime at the library.
Biscuit Gives a Gift
This app is based on the series of books by Alyssa Capucilli and features easy-to-read text, some simple animations, and a few activities to extend the story. Designed for iPhone and iPad, as of this writing it is available to download for 99 cents.
Merry Christmas Mom and Dad
This Little Critter reading app, a new release for the Christmas 2013 holiday, was written by Mercer Mayer (author of the popular Little Critter books) and produced by Oceanhouse Media. The story introduces some of the traditions of Christmas – wrapping presents, trimming the tree, etc. – from the point of view of Little Critter, who wants more than anything to be helpful – yet things don’t turn out as planned. Vocabulary words appear when a word or picture is tapped, and the opportunity to record your own narration will help develop the young reader’s storytelling skills. Designed for iPhone and iPad, all of this can be yours for a cool 99 cents (limited time offer).
PopOut! Night Before Christmas
Produced by loudcrow Interactive, a company known for its quality apps, this is a pop-up version of the traditional poem written by Clement C. Moore that features a visit from St. Nicholas – the original Santa Claus – with classic illustrations by William Denslow. Every page has something to turn or touch or swipe that brings the drawings to life just as a paper pop-up book does. The “Read to me” version highlights the text as it is read aloud, while the “Read myself” version will highlight and speak any word that is touched. Designed for multiple formats, including iPad and Android, this app is currently available at a reduced price of $2.99.
Night & Day Studios has a series of Peekaboo book apps for toddlers, and all of them follow the same format. Something is hidden, in this case inside a present, and if you listen, you can hear a clue. Touch the box to open it and reveal the gift or Christmas item inside. At the end, all of the toys and items appear together, along with a beautiful Christmas tree, and then they all go to sleep. Although this app is meant for toddlers, the five- and six-year olds in our group enjoyed it as well, and took great delight in guessing. Designed for multiple formats, the price for the iPad version is $1.99.
Don’t Open Before Christmas
Written by Bill Doyle and produced by Crab Hill Press, an ebook company, this story is based on the idea that presents are like eggs and can’t be opened until they are “hatched” – which a boy named Seymour discovers when he sneaks a peek at his gifts. The gifts wreak havoc in his house, but all ends well and Seymour learns a lesson. The interactive elements in this app bring the story to life. Available for iPad, current price $2.99.
PopcornGrenade.com offers 12 carols for Christmas sing-along. The attractive, snowy white and cloudy gray scene is highlighted with bright splashes of red, and the text for each carol highlights the lyrics to be sung in red. The cloudy background can be changed to a starry midnight blue or warm cozy yellow. The text is large and clear – just right for new readers! The “Lite” version is available to try for free (with two songs), but 99 cents gives you all 12 carols, including Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, Winter Wonderland, Jingle Bells, Silent Night, and Auld Lang Syne. Available in multiple formats.