Reading to Your Child? There’s an App for That Part 2

Yesterday I published a great guest post from Phil from ReadItDaddy about whether apps really do have a role to play in children’s reading and education – or should we all be sticking to print?

Here’s my response to Phil’s points, and you can read Part 3 of our discussion tomorrow. Do join in with your own thoughts in the comments section.

Oh, the Thinks - in use on iPadIt will come as no surprise that our family are regular users of apps on the iPad – after all, it was our love of them which lead to the birth of this blog! But while CAppTivated Kids usually extols the virtues of apps, it is great to host a post posing some tricky questions. Phil is a parent who with his daughter has seen as many apps as we have over the past few years, but has come away with mixed feelings.

I agree, Phil,  that the initial glitz and shine of the iPad as well as the now enormous offering of apps is very alluring to parents and children alike, and can lead to app distraction or overuse. It is true that not all apps will be suitable for your child, including issues you mention such as spelling and pronunciation, but in an even broader sense just finding the best quality apps can be hard. I think it’s important to be a ruthless curator for your child’s apps, just as you would for your home bookshelf. However there are more and more apps with UK English spelling and narration, and the Kids Category in the App store has improved discovery of the best quality story apps to some extent.  As a side note, I’ve also found it useful to discuss the difference between UK and US spelling and pronunciation with my kids (something you also encounter in print books like The Cat in the Hat Comes Back with its pesky Zee/Zed rhymes!)

In terms of time and convenience, personally I would be very sad if this was the main reason parents were using the iPad instead of print books.  For me, some of the other factors you highlighted such as personalisation and interactivity are the real draws – whether I am using the apps with my children or not. I don’t see it as a replacement for my own reading to them, and would always encourage iPad story app use to be additional to print books rather than a substitute. It isn’t really the same experience, and I agree that there is something special about turning the pages and poring over the illustrations with your child. And yes, nothing on-screen can replace bedtime stories for us either! We tend to classify iPad use as screen time like TV or video games, so if they choose story apps it is a bonus. But with a number of brilliant apps not appearing in print, I would be very wary of completely closing down this avenue to children.

You also mention brilliant iPad only stories which you like to see in print. I do find it very interesting when this happens – such as the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore – but I think it is difficult to produce something in app and print which is equally good in each format – inevitably something will usually suffer! I think this is something Nosy Crow have successfully navigated by (largely) keeping separate app and print lists. It’s particularly difficult to see how print might work when storytelling and gaming elements combine such as in Bartleby’s Buttons or Little Red Riding Hood.

So in summary, yes I do understand the app fatigue which I am sure we all suffer from at some point! But I feel optimistic that digital storytelling can stand on its own merits particularly in terms of personalisation, interactivity and choice. If it continues to become easier to find the right story apps (not easy when there is no equivalent of the local library to help!) and the quality apps rise to the top, there is no reason not to see them as a new channel for sharing stories with children – even if the idea of them replacing print is completely out of the question for both of us.

Come back tomorrow for the final part in this series.