Do Children's Books made for the iPad Miss The Point? (HT: @pnpbookseller)

I've previously talked up the exciting nature of interactive children's books as applications, as well as linked to some research discussing their effectiveness (or lack of) as teaching tools, but Jon Page recently posted a link to this editorial by journalist Farhad Manjoo, who asks:

When a young reader engages with the Another Monster app, what is he doing? Is he reading a book? Playing a video game? Watching TV? It's hard to say.

Farhad specifically points out the 'Another Monster' app when discussing the downside of these interactive optimised experiences:

The Another Monster app is an extreme example of what I've found to be a common problem with children's books made for the iPad. They offer too many different kinds of experiences, becoming muddled in the process - and, more importantly, missing the point of children's books, which is to get kids excited about reading.

I agree with him to a point. Electronic children's books lie on a spectrum from pure digital conversions to fully interactive games-with-text. Farhad raises good points about children being easily distracted by the tempting 'home' button on the iPad, and why they would concentrate on the text in front of them with so many other tempting options, but this really highlights a problem with the hardware, not the individual story applications.

This tempting-home-button problem is fixed in the latest upgrade to the iPad's operating system, iOS 6, with a setting known as Single App mode, or Guided Access. This locks the device into one application, and optionally disable parts of the screen, meaning Farhad's complaint about children clicking away from a book application is pretty much addressed (of course iOS 6 will not be available on the first generation iPad, which is the model most often repurposed for children, so...yeah...but my point still stands).

Regardless, it's a good article about a parent's experience with digital children's books.

Link here:

Persian Cat Press and books-as-apps for children (via @readinasitting and @persiancatpress)

Persian Cat Press guest blogs at Teacher Turned Writer to describe their approach to children's books as apps. I linked to research about children and ebooks just recently, so this pracital example of books for children provides a good follow up.

An app is a unique platform in that it allows publishers to create a product that involves not only traditional reading and visual literacy, but also a physical and aural literacy too. In this way, apps have the potential to not only talk to a child’s imagination but also directly to their senses.

They talk about their first books-as-app, 'The Gift', and all the various elements, from musical scores to non-essential-but-fun little diversions in the text, that were brought together in the final work.

Check it out here for some inspiration:

For Reading and Learning, Kids Prefer E-Books to Print Books (via @digibookworld)

Well! But what about the smell, you say? Of the books, I mean, not the kids.

A new “QuickStudy” – so named for its short duration and the small size of its sample group – from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center observed 24 families with children ranging in age from three-to-six reading both print and e-books in the Summer and Fall of 2011. Most of the children in the study preferred reading an e-book to a print book and comprehension between the two formats were the same.

Now bear in mind this is exactly what it says on the tin: a quick study, mostly useful for identifying if there an interesting result that might warrant further investigation. Also, interestingly:

Enhanced e-books – those that have more bells and whistles than e-books, like interactive features and games – were also compared in the study with their regular e-book counterparts. Children recalled fewer of the details of the content of enhanced e-books versus the same e-book.

“Kids were more focused on tapping things and that took away from their comprehension as well as the interaction between the parent and the child,” said Shuler.

There have been few studies on the impact on children of this sweeping new way of accessing content, so hopefully this study will spur further research. For writers and publishers, having more of an understanding of how kids respond to digital content will help structure new e-books (both fiction and non-fiction).

The original article is here for further reading: