Tuesday, September 27, 2011

App Review: Trees Are Best FACT

We have not come across too many nonfiction picture books in the App Store. So when we stumbled upon Trees Are Best FACT, we were excited.

Created by Hedgehog Lab, Trees Are Best is a celebration of all things tree. Told from the perspective of an 8-year-old boy whose friend says "diggers" are best, it is an exploration of what our barky friends can do, from giving us air to breathe to telling us their age in concentric rings.

The interactive components are engaging, beginning on the title page where readers have to shake the iPad to clear a pile of leaves and reveal the text. From dragging on branches to make a tree grow to using a tiny magnifying glass to examine a teensy tree, the whistles and bells on Trees Are Best will keep readers' interest.

There is even an art pad to let young fingers draw their own trees and share them with friends via email. The images can be posted to Facebook pages as well, though the audience for this app is a bit too young to have a Facebook account. But posting on Mom or Dad's page might be the modern equivalent of hanging artwork on the refrigerator.

The narration is solid and sound effects entertaining, though my grownup eyes found the type a bit too small here and there. The visual appeal of Trees Are Best is tremendous -- from collage to video to illustration, with humorous touches here and there that are sure to amuse.

A "coming soon" notice from Hedgehog promises a build-your-own treehouse tool and a tree-spotter's guide, among other upgrades. We look forward to seeing those additions to this lovely, original app. $0.99 for iPad, in English and German

Thursday, September 22, 2011

App Review: Let Me See. . . What Will I Be?

It would be easy to sum up Let Me See. . . What Will I Be? in a single word: adorable. But there's much more to the story about Miss Rosie Red than first meets the eye.

Written by Northern Ireland author-illustrator Trisha Deery and produced by Derry media company Dog Ears, What Will I Be? was released simultaneously as an app and a paper book. It features the curious Rosie, age 3-ish, and her delightful two sidekicks, Baby and a cat named Cooper.

The story is simple. Rosie has been invited to a birthday party and must decide what she wants to be for it. An astronaut? A fairy? A dinosaur?

The narration is sweetly performed by a young child, and my three kids could not get enough of it. The book is geared for the youngest appsters, but older readers will get a kick out of this toddler's antics. My six-year-old ate it up, taking joy in what the young whippersnapper Rosie was up to.

Darling illustrations of Rosie and her friends dressed in each possibility offer just the right amount of interactivity without letting little fingers lose track of the story. The emphasis is on Rosie and her excitement about going to a birthday party, and the resolution is spot on.

Miss Rosie has a strong appeal, and her charming companions Baby and Cooper create an irresistible triple-threat. Dog Ears reports the possibility of a TV show in the works, along with more books. What we liked best about Rosie was that her dress-up choices were not stereotypically girlie. Sure, the fairy option was a sparkly pink froth, but it was balanced by Rosie as a dinosaur and as an astronaut.

There is an air about this character -- resplendent in her striped red tights -- that is reminiscent of a certain pig with a big personality. Here's hoping we see more of Miss Rosie Red. With all this potential, who knows what she will be.

$2.99 for iPad and iPhone; paper book available in English and Irish

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

JibJab Brings Its Sense of Fun to Kids Books

JibJab's Starring You holiday and birthday greetings have been cracking us up since 2007, when the first e-cards that allow users to put the heads of loved ones into hilarious videos made their debut. Now brothers Evan and Gregg Spiridellis -- Jib and Jab themselves -- are dipping their toes in the waters of children's apps with JibJab Jr.

The first title -- The Biggest Pizza Ever -- comes free when you download the JibJab Jr. app. If you like, you can buy the other titles currently offered in the app's home screen, Alphabet Wrangler and Ocean Commotion, each for $7.99. Or go for the monthly JibJab Jr. plan at $3.99 and receive a new book automatically each month.

Personalizing the JibJab line of books is incredibly simple. In a few keystrokes, you can upload a photo of your wee one and type in her name, then sit back and enjoy the rollicking ride. Prepare yourselves for some fun.

Because dotMomming has enjoyed JibJab over the years (spending countless hours creating wacky holiday cards for everyone she could think of), we reached out to Gregg Spiridellis about the new children's book line, what's behind this latest move, and what's ahead for JibJab.

DotMomming: Among the hilarious features to JibJab cards is the audio. My writing group still chuckles over the fabulous JibJab holiday card they received last December, set to Jose Feliciano's Feliz Navidad. With the JibJab Jr. books for kids, there is no audio, no gentle piano accompaniment, no "read to me" feature as with many apps. Was this a deliberate decision to focus on the story and the printed words?

Gregg Spiridellis: Yes, it was a deliberate decision and, yes, it was a mistake. We were so focused on making this about the parent reading to the child that we missed the opportunity to insert subtle sounds that enhance the experience. We are working on it now, and it will be the first major feature enhancement for us.

DM: Many picture book apps include interactivity where kids tap on puffy clouds to make it rain or swipe a tree to make it grow taller. With The Biggest Pizza Ever, the interactivity is in creating characters. With a few simple steps, kids can import their own picture and feature themselves as the hero of the story. Can you talk about the decisions that went into the book's interactivity?

GS: Our mission is to enhance the time parents spend with their children sharing stories at bedtime. As parents, my brother and I find it frustrating when we are trying to tell the story and all the kids want to do is click the screen. There is nothing wrong with interactivity, especially for learning games, but for bedtime reading, we think it distracts from the storytelling experience. We may do some experimentation with this in the future, but unlike sound, which we are adding as quickly as possible, we are holding off on interactivity beyond the creation of the book itself.

DM: Picture book apps are exciting new creatures, and they are very much in their infancy. Can you talk about why JibJab decided to venture into this world and what you hope to do?

GS: The fact that there is so much room for re-invention of the bedtime storytelling experience with new technology is what excites us! We hope to leverage technology to create products that enhance the time parents spend telling stories to their kids!

DM: JibJab has a very particular sense of humor, and it comes through in the first example of your books, The Biggest Pizza Ever. Where or from whom does this sensibility come? Gregg? Evan? Is one brother funnier than the other? And what can we expect to see from you guys in the coming months?

GS: Everyone at JibJab is funny! That’s our business! While my brother and I decide on what stories get produced, The Biggest Pizza Ever is written by one of our very talented employees, Scott Emmons. In the coming months you will see more books with that JibJab sense of humor, aged-down for the 2- to 6-year-old people in your life!

DM: In a recent USA Today interview, you described the opportunity to "disrupt" children's publishing. What does that mean?

GS: We think new technology creates new opportunities to tell stories that will be far more immersive and engaging than what is possible on printed paper. The traditional publishers have built a business printing things on paper and distributing that paper to wholesalers (Barnes & Noble, Borders, etc.). We think the skills required to be a world-class children’s publisher in the future will be very different than the skills required to be a leader in the past.

DM: As parents yourselves, can you talk about your own kids' reading habits and what you see as the future in book publishing? Do your kids prefer digital over paper, both? What do you prefer as a parent?

GS: Both Evan and I prefer reading iPad books to our kids at night, and they prefer it as well! The reason we prefer it, as parents, is that we can turn off the lights and crawl into bed and read the stories in the dark, which really helps wind the kids down for bedtime.

DM: Tapping, swiping, games, animation. What are your thoughts on a book as a tool for early literacy? Where are the boundaries? When do they become a movie or a game? And does it matter?

GS: There is no doubt that the iPad is an amazing early learning tool (some of the Bob apps are great for early learning). While we are focused on the bedtime reading experience right now, we think there are obvious opportunities to expand into learning apps in the future.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

App Review: Finn's Paper Hat

It's no surprise when wee ones these days look at a VCR tape and wonder what in the world to do with it. Ditto phones attached to walls, CD racks, and the handles that roll car windows up and down.

What breaks the heart of newspaper lovers everywhere is the notion that this same under-40-inches set will not know what you can do with a newspaper. Roll it up and train the dog. Wrap dishes and coffee mugs in it and pack for a move. And best of all, fold it up and make a hat.

That's why Finn's Paper Hat caught our eye. Produced by Tizio Publishing, the same folks who created the enchanting Fierce Grey Mouse, Finn's Paper Hat is the second app from talented author-illustrator Chantal Bourgonje

In this story, Finn creates a newspaper hat and embarks on some exciting adventures. When rain pours down, he doesn't worry about the water drenching his hat. He turns it over and sets sail. With engaging animation, Finn's journey moves from ocean waves to a bumpy encounter with a whale.

Readers can tap the page to add snowflakes at the North Pole and drag their fingers across the page to run the whale aground. More encounters with a seal bring other adventures as Finn makes the best of every situation. And his creative uses for the paper hat celebrate imagination.

While many apps can be heard in a variety of languages from Mandarin to Dutch, Finn's Paper Hat offers options I've not seen before: Readers can choose to have the narration performed in Australian English, American English, U.K. English, and beyond. I chose English narration with an Irish slant, and I felt like Colin Farrell was snuggled in the chair with me. Sigh.

Finn's Paper Hat offers extras that include a how-to guide for making your own paper hat, as well as coloring pages. $1.99 for iPad

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Crab Hill Press Enjoys the Wild App Ride

We're always on the lookout for a good time over here at dotMomming. So when we discovered the fast-paced, downright thrilling picture book apps created by Crab Hill Press, we got a little weak in the knees. Their Nash Smasher! app, about a boy with a certain amount of joie de vivre and a hammer, made our top picks for summer. And My Dad Drives a Roller Coaster Car still has us reeling.

Of course we had to reach out to Crab Hill and meet the imaginative minds behind such madcap fun. Bill Doyle serves as chief writer and Rachel Ericson is creative director.

DotMomming: I see on one of your pages that you have "30 years combined experience in kids publishing." Can you elaborate? You come from book backgrounds. What made you make the leap into apps and digital books?

Bill: Rachel and I both come out of the print world. We became friends at Sesame Workshop in the '90s. I was editor of a magazine called Kid City, based on The Electric Company, and Rachel was art director of Contact Kids Magazine, based on the show 3-2-1 Contact. After Sesame, we had a blast freelancing on different projects together and had always talked about working on our own thing. We’re both gadget geeks—so when apps first appeared on the radar, we knew we wanted in.

It helped, too, that I’d been writing for different websites and different interactive publishers like LeapFrog. I was itching to apply some of what I was learning to our own projects.

DM: The joys of running your own app development business likely are many, including having complete control of the content and look of the books you're creating. Can you explain the appeal of Crab Hill Press and what you enjoy most about it?

Bill: I love working with big publishers. You can’t beat the editors I’ve worked with, the illustrators I’ve been paired with, or the support and distribution the big companies can offer.

It’s exciting, though, for us to go out on the tightrope on our own…either we do some cool acrobatics that gets the crowd going…or we might fall. Either way, it’s a rush just knowing that it’s all up to us.

At Crab Hill Press, we have a rule: we only do something if we’re having fun. It sounds like a cliché or something you might say during an interview, but it’s absolutely true. If a project starts meandering out of the realm of “wow, we’re having a good time,” we’ll pull back and take a breather until it’s fun again. Everyone has enough going on in their lives that they don’t need something that might feel like more work.

Rachel: We seriously only do what we enjoy. Bill is super enthusiastic, which makes it more fun, and the chain of command is pretty short. There's me, and there's Bill. And usually we agree. Of course, we hope that it will translate into being rich and famous one day, but mostly we're making apps we really believe in. And we focus on quality, originality, and content. There is no one in the process disputing our gut feelings or diluting an idea.

I also love being able to work with great people. Troy Cummings and Daniel Guidera are both illustrators I've worked with extensively in the past. Together with Mark Arenz, the fantastic programmer of our apps, we not only have a really talented and creative team, but also one that's really FUNNY. It's definitely my policy to only work with people I like, and these guys crack me up all the time.

DM: The flip side of the coin is that you assume all the risk and all the expense: developing the platform your apps run on is costly, you have to sell a lot of books to see a profit. Can you talk about the stresses and nail-biting moments of running Crab Hill?

Bill: I think the two days after we released our first app, Nash Smasher!, were a little harrowing and when I chewed up the most nails. That second after we were approved for the App Store and went on sale, I thought, “Oh, we’ve put out an app and there are millions and millions of people with devices…we’re going to be HUGE immediately.” That wasn’t the case. While Apple has always been amazing to us and featured us in New & Noteworthy and What’s Hot, at first we kind of sank unnoticed into the huge pile of apps. We tried running ads on Google and Facebook...those didn’t work out. Lucky for us, Apps4Kids.net was the first site to notice us. And, a couple months later, when The New York Times named Nash Smasher one of the Top 10 Kids Books for the iPad, things really started to move.

Rachel: I think the approval process for each app has been the only moment where I bite my nails. That's when you send your baby out in the world and it's out of your hands. It was also a bit of a cold shower to see that we didn't automatically sell thousands or even hundreds in a day. But I've adjusted my expectations, and we're exploring new ways in order to better the sales figures for our current and upcoming projects.

DM: For authors and illustrators considering going this way, I think it's important for them to understand profit margins in the two publishing realms (app vs. traditional). Can you give a sense of what's in it for authors and artists once a platform is set up -- from what I can see, there is real money to be made despite the low price of apps.

So let's talk profit margins and sales. Both of your picture book apps sell for $1.99 in the App Store. Can you break down (in general terms) the costs involved in bringing a picture book app to life -- from idea (and you have had fabulous book ideas!) to finished product? What percentage are you taking home for each app downloaded? In the traditional book market, a picture book needs to sell about 10,000 copies to be deemed a success. How many sales do you need to "make it" as an app? And to "make it BIG"?

Bill: Print is a big part of both of our lives, and individually we have great relationships with big companies. For example, I’ve got a book with Scholastic that sold about 450,000 copies in a year. Those kinds of numbers are extremely hard to beat—and so is the support and talent you can access.

Because we’re small, we don’t have the overhead of big publishers. So we can charge a little less for our apps. And when it comes to margin, the 70/30 split that Apple has established is incredibly fair.

Speaking of fair, that’s something I’ve learned from publishers and book packagers I’ve worked with: Be fair to the people you’re working with. Give illustrators the credit and percentage they deserve.

Rachel: I'm not really sure what that number would be to consider your app a success. We're doing our best to make sure that the people involved in our app production get compensated fairly. But we're not Angry Birds…yet.

DM: Production time is one of the major differences between picture book apps vs. picture books with paper pages. For an author, it might take more than a year to see your book make it through the editorial process and onto a bookstore shelf. For a picture book app, the process can be just a matter of months. Can you talk about Nash Smasher! and My Dad Drives a Roller Coaster Car and how long the creative process took for those apps?

Bill: One of my favorite print books out now is Attack of the Shark-Headed Zombie which took about two years to go from idea to shelf. I thought our apps would be much, much faster. But time gets eaten up in different ways, and both Nash Smasher! and My Dad Drives a Roller Coaster Car took about half a year. It helps that we work with one of the best and most creative programmers, Mark Arenz—he keeps us moving at just the right pace.

Rachel: I’d agree. I think it took about six months from concept to launch. It might have been faster if Crab Hill Press was my day job, but luckily we didn't have the stress of a hard and fast deadline hanging over our heads.

DM: There is a sort of gold rush happening in app-land as authors, illustrators, and publishers flock to this new frontier. How do you avoid getting swept up in the frenzy to throw as many apps out there as you can and see what sticks? How do you ensure quality -- in story content, illustration and interactive features?

Bill: I think creating apps is a little like dating. You don’t want to rush things, promise too much, come off as desperate, or seem greedy. Because Rachel and I both are still working in the print world with other publishers, we have the luxury of time right now. Plus, as someone who’s wanted to be a writer his whole life, I have a file cabinet full of ideas and it’s fun to sift through them and find just the
right new project.

One quick quality suggestion: Don’t skimp on sound in your apps! I had a teacher at NYU who said if you only have a little money for a film, spend it on a good microphone. The same idea is true for apps. Good sound will take you a long way. Oh! And respect your reader. Don’t oversell in the iTunes description and be very careful not to talk down to kids in the books.

[Check out a clip of Crab Hill's My Dad Drives a Roller Coaster Car to get a sense of how important audio is to the app experience.]

Rachel: Working with the right people, remaining enthusiastic, and respecting your audience are the best ways to keep your quality high. Busy with all sorts of things in life, we choose our projects carefully, and don't have time to throw out a bunch of apps to see what sticks. So that helps. In addition to that, I have a five-year-old and feel responsible to create things I'm extremely proud of: if it’s not good enough for her, it’s not good enough.

DM: Coming from traditional books and now venturing into apps, how do they compare for you -- creatively speaking? Where does your heart lie? And what do you see for the future of picture books?

Bill: With the more traditional print books I write, I find this wonderful focus…where each and every word is an important brick in the mental picture and character composite you’re building for readers.

The book apps are different kinds of productions. I can bring in a few more of the
things I picked up at NYU, and combine even more of the things I love: design, art, story, lighting, music, and voice talent.

What’s exciting about the future of kids book apps is that no one is completely sure where it’s going. We attended the incredible Dust or Magic App Camp in May and met all sorts of developers from one-person companies to those working with Disney…and it seems we’re all on the same terrific ride: trying to figure out what will be the next big thing!

Rachel: I love paper, I’m always going to be creating things for print… but an app is just wide open as far as what you can do with it. It’s a very exciting time for designers, and it makes my brain hurt trying to think of ways to be more creative!

There will always be a future for picture books though; the market may change, but it won't go away. If anything it will make the market for quality books stronger. Think of movie theaters… everyone thought they would die once we were able to watch films at home, but in actuality it's motivated the industry to make better movies and made going to the movie theater something special. Holding a book in your hands will always remain something special.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Another Card-Carrying Member of the CPL

I stopped by the Blackstone Branch of the Chicago Public Library the other day with the kids in tow. It was one of many stops on a hot day full of errands to the dry cleaners, the grocery store, the pet store, and the coffee shop.

"Why are we sitting down?" asked my six-year-old, resting his head on the wooden table.

"Because we need to fill out this form," I explained. "You're getting a library card today."

He wasn't going for it. He was hungry, he was tired, and he was desperate to get home and back to playing with the dog or staging battles with his knights. Anything but having to sit quietly at a table and perform some writing task.

And as with many young boys, reading and writing are not his default settings. Neither activity comes easy to him. Despite a summer spent immersed in books, he's not a confident reader. And as for his writing ability, fine-motor skills are not his strong suit.

"Why can't we go to the library where you bought me Bad Kitty?" he argued.

"Because that's a bookstore, and we have to buy the books there," I said with a peppy voice, though he was not so swayed by my enthusiasm. "A library is where you get to read the books for free."

Clearly I need to work on money management with my kids. Because "free" doesn't seem to have the same motivating effect on them as it does on me.

We got in line and waited for our turn at the desk. Big sister and brother joined us, heaving their own deep sighs and obviously wishing they were somewhere else, too.

Until Elbert.

Elbert Patterson is the head clerk at the Blackstone Branch. He has been the friendly face of the Chicago Public Library system for me over the years -- always pleasant and never once scolding me for my shameful accumulation of fines. But on this day, Elbert Patterson was bigger than that. On this particular day, Elbert Patterson was the embodiment of all that is wonderful about public libraries.

"Gabriel," he said in a deep and somber voice. Then he paused for a few beats, reading over the application form my almost-first-grader had placed on the counter. "Gabriel, you did a wonderful job writing your name."

Suddenly, Mr. Cranky Pants stopped slouching. He stood a little taller in his sneakers. His brother and sister quit their fidgeting and gazed up at Elbert, too. Both seemed keenly aware that Gabriel was having A Moment.

"Sometimes, people fill out the forms, and they are messy," Elbert continued. "Your G is perfect, and both your Ss are facing the right way. Not everybody gets that right."

Gabriel nodded with a gravity I'd never witnessed in him before.

As Elbert explained the borrowing privileges Gabriel was now granted, I looked around at the cathedral-like setting that is the Blackstone Library -- the first branch in the city's library system. Unlike the contemporary design of many suburban libraries, patrons stepping through the doors here are met with a stunning rotunda flanked by four murals depicting labor, literature, the arts, and agriculture.

And like a cathedral, it inspires a sense of reverence.

The line behind us began to stack up, but Elbert didn't rush us along. He printed Gabriel's name out in bold block letters and had him check it for mistakes. Then when it was ready, Elbert presented the green and white plastic rectangle to Gabriel with all dignity and respect it deserved.

There are few cards as powerful as a library card. Not only because libraries play such a crucial role in maintaining a democracy and supporting an educated populace -- all highfalutin notions. But for a child, it instills their first sense of community and belonging.

"Congratulations, Gabriel," Elbert said. "You are free to use the Chicago Public Library."

Now, the reverence I feel isn't just for our beautiful library building. It's for the Elbert Pattersons of the world.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

App Review: Winken, Blinken, and Nod

One of my earliest recollections is of trying to memorize the Winken, Blinken, and Nod nursery rhyme from my beloved Bumper Book when I was 3 or 4 years old. So when I spotted Larva Labs' take on this adorable classic, I was all over it.

Their version of Winken, Blinken, and Nod for the iPad is beautifully presented in paper cutouts. Made from real, used-to-be-a-tree paper, every aspect of the visuals is breathtaking. Little Nod wears a folded newspaper hat, and his pals Winken and Blinken are no less charming. With a bright red sail in their textured wooden shoe, they are a gorgeous team.

What makes this Winken, Blinken, and Nod stand out from the app pack is the voice-recognition feature. Read the story aloud, and the words become illuminated and trigger more action. I found the sound effects perfect -- the gentle splashing of our wee boat as it sailed through the twinkling foam was soothing for a nighttime read. And the distinct sounds that identify our three characters -- a babyish giggle for Nod, a froggy croak for Blinken, and a saxophone blast for Winken -- added a bit of finger-tapping fun.

But there were a few moments during readings of this bedtime story with my three kids that produced unintentional bouts of laughter. On spots where the voice recognition failed, the kids and I would shout at the iPad as if it were a deaf uncle. One minute we were snuggled on the pillow, wrapped in the lulling rhythm of this timeless rhyme:"All night long their nets they threw. . " And the next we were repeating the text again and again to no avail, ". . . to the stars." "To the STARS!" "TO THE STARS!"

Overall, the voice recognition worked well. What was most successful for me was to read the text slowly and smoothly without a lot of monkeying around with silly inflections. Once I discovered that playing it straight led to a seamless read, I had no problems.

My little guy preferred to tap the words as he read them aloud himself, then watch what animation resulted from his progress. This approach is fine, too. For emerging readers, associating specific text with images reinforces their understanding of the story. In a very tactile way, they are extracting meaning from every word they tap.

Winken, Blinken, and Nod is a beautiful app with an interesting tech twist, that's pretty much perfect for a bedtime reading. $1.99 for the iPad

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Part 4: Glowing Screens As Zombie-Makers, and Other Digital Media Fears

In this fourth and final installment of our conversation with Patrick Cox, who teaches Children's Literacies, a Rutgers University course about learning to read in the digital age, we address attitudes about digital books and their utility. A recent Christian Science Monitor article dismissed narrated picture book apps as an annoying diversion to keep kids occupied at restaurants. While I like to rope off family talking time from screen time, I don't have a problem with a book in whatever form it might take. But there are many, like the Christian Science Monitor writer, who disagree. Giving a child an e-reader "walls them off from the social connections that are part of why we go to restaurants in the first place."

DotMomming: Picture book apps have come under recent criticism as just another toy to divert impatient kids.  I think that is completely overlooking their value: How can picture book apps best be used in early literacy development? I like to see my six-year-old work his way through them on his own, as he deciphers the words solo and experiences the interactive surprises nestled into the book for himself. There is also a school of thought devoted to shared engagement between adult teacher and child learner. What is your take?

Patrick Cox: The author makes one of many assumptions people make about picture book apps and other forms of digital literature: once a child gets their hands on an electronic device, he or she will cease to engage with other human beings. This is another age-old argument. Similar moral panics have erupted in the past around books – that too much reading is bad for children, is somehow unnatural, cuts them off from “real” communication, and makes them lazy or “soft.” 

The truth is, and I think most people know it, sometimes kids engage with books in interaction with parents, and sometimes kids engage with books on their own. What seems to be a difficult leap to make is that the same holds true for digital reading. The current “new thing” is digital reading in many different forms (many of which are enjoyed by adults), so the current moral panic is that the dreaded glowing screen is turning our children into zombies who don’t know how to communicate. It’s an easy, breezy topic for a magazine column or discussion board post.

But the question isn’t, “What are we to do in the face of this debilitating technology?” but rather, “How can we use it to enable our children (and us!) to communicate better?” Apps, like books, are merely tools, and we have more control over how we use them than they have power to control us. A recorded narrator’s voice needn’t eliminate parent interaction with a child while reading. Parent and child can enjoy together, can still talk about the text and images, a child can ask questions about the content of the app, a child can later relive the story through imaginative play. . . Indeed, a child can engage with an app alone, and an app can keep a child busy or quiet at a restaurant. . . which is also just like a book.

I think shared engagement is absolutely essential, not only for learning to read but for parent-child bonding! These technologies and formats are as new to me as they are to my four-year-old-son: we both saw a picture book app for the first time together! And we figured it out together – how to use it, what we like about it, what we don’t like about it, what we’ll use again. The new platform hasn’t kept us from engaging with one another while reading. It’s given us something else to utilize as we engage with one another.