Reading to Your Child? There’s an App for That Part 3

This week I’ve been having a discussion with Phil from ReadItDaddy about whether apps really do have a role to play in children’s reading – or should we all be sticking to print? We’ve had lots of great comments to so thank you to everyone who has added their thoughts!

Here’s Part 3 of our discussion – the final post. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series of articles and if there is anything you think we have missed (I am sure there must be), please do share in the comments section.

 Phil says:

In reply, it’s absolutely true that sourcing the best apps can be a minefield for a parent – whichever platform you choose. Our experience with Apple’s approval programme has been quite positive on the whole but we still find that word of mouth, and blogger opinion (particularly on sites like yours!) [Your fiver is in the post – Ed.] are far more worthwhile than any of the store ratings applied to apps, or user reviews.

Juggling a book blog, we have the opposite experience when it comes to children’s books. Through our excellent local library, and being fortunate enough to be on the reviews list for several publishers, we find sourcing great children’s books a real breeze (in fact we very rarely find a children’s book we don’t like!)

Concentrating purely on storytelling apps we often take the approach that it’s worthwhile paying for a storybook app if the price is lower than the print book. Some publishers tend to miss a trick with their digital versions of well-loved story books, in that the print book is often cheaper than the app. App pricing is a huge debate to get into, developers obviously (and probably quite rightly) feel that they should be rewarded for the effort they put into their apps. Parents always look for a fairly low price for apps (or free – but then is a free app ever truly free? Another debate to be had!) With children’s books you can usually predict that a book is going to be attractively bound, and won’t need any extra payments. The book you pay for is the book you get, but sadly that hasn’t been our experience with apps – and though we ensure that we password-lock all payments on tablets and phones, our daughter is often faced with an immersion-breaking ‘nag’ screen requiring extras to be downloaded or paid for with ‘free’ or even cheap apps.

It’s not all bad news. You mentioned “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore” which is a brilliant example of a storytelling app that is truly making the best use of the medium to enhance an already well-loved story. Likewise, we found a huge number of apps (some of which are available as print books, some of which aren’t) in a roundup we published…

Storytelling apps, like the utterly wonderful “Mademoiselle Daisy’s New Friends” by Igloo (one of those apps we always wish was a print book) and Dandelion by Protein One (something that really would only ever work as an interactive story app) set the bar and our expectations very high.

We published a list of five things we’d love to see app and interactive storytelling developers do more of here:

I guess the point is that app fatigue can be offset when apps truly show that they offer more than just a few rudimentary animations to keep a child’s attention, or some whizz-pop sound effects. I love the MeBooks approach of allowing parents and children to define together their own reading experience – just like they would do with a print book – and really believe that interaction, user-defined experiences and sometimes even breaking the fourth wall are key to truly defining storytelling apps as a medium in their own right, rather than just a technological embellishment of print.

 Helen says:

You made a some very good points about pricing, Phil – there’s such a big discussion to be had on that issue alone! Thanks for highlighting some of your favourite apps and some of the things you want to see more of – hopefully app developers are taking note. Getting apps right is something we also talked about in the comments yesterday and it’s so important.

I definitely think you make a good case for the fact that print should come first when reading with young children.  You mentioned a more consistent high standard of books, easier routes to discovery (such as libraries), easier to understand pricing and more opportunities to really share the experience with your child. I think I would agree with you on all of that. But I’m also pleased that we agree on the possibilities for using new technology as an additional channel, in moderation and with care – when both the story and the interactivity are up to scratch. As a Cybils Book App judge I’m looking forward to seeing who this year’s Cybils Book App finalists are in January (you can see 2012’s here) as hopefully there will be some new gems to discover.

readitdaddyheader4Thanks to Phil for a great discussion – do head over to his blog at  for great book reviews and more.