Picture Book Apps versus Monster Truck Games
Most people, including toddlers and preschoolers, enjoy using apps like Angry Birds in which the player catapults small birds to knock over objects or Fruit Ninja in which the player slices falling fruits in half. My own three-year-old son is a big fan of online car racing games and apps featuring monster trucks. When your toddler or preschooler is finished playing these entertaining apps and games then he or she might like to try a picture book app.
Picture book apps take various approaches to transforming a book into an application that can run on a smartphone or other electronic device. Some apps use a book's text and illustrations with a few bells and whistles added. Other apps adjust a book's text to the new medium and add interactive elements and still other apps transform a book into an experience completely different than reading a text from start to finish. Similar to popular apps in other fields, a good picture book app must be intuitive, interactive, fun and exciting. Multiple opportunities for the user's actions to cause fun, interesting reactions are what make an app successful.
Curious Puppy produces an app for Freight Train by Donald Crews. This app basically moves the text and illustrations from the book straight to the app; however, there are really fun parts to this app. The soundtrack includes songs about trains, the sound of train whistles and so on. Users may explore the contents of the freight train. There is a fruit tossing game inside the purple box car. The youngest users will enjoy this intuitive app. This type of app may not hold a user's interest for a high number of repeated uses but it will certainly appeal to a user familiar with the book. With excitement, they will recognize the pictures and words that they already know, enjoy opening the doors on the train and playing with the contents of the train's cars.
Boynton Moo Media and Loud Crow Interactive produce The Going to Bed Book app. Loud Crow Interactive apps transfer most of an actual reading experience to the app but with very interesting, fun additions. At the beginning of the app, the user may choose to have the words read by a narrator or to read the words on his or her own.
With the first option, each word is highlighted as the narrator reads the story. With both options, the reader may touch any word at any time and have the word highlighted and pronounced. The user turns simulated pages as a reader reading a book would turn real pages. The interactive parts include turning the hot water tap on and off when the characters take a bath, watching the screen steam up from the hot water, writing in the steam and other cool, awesome actions.
Don't Let the Pigeon Run this App (Hyperion/Small Planet Digital) by Mo Willems is an app which presents a different experience than reading text.
The app is very interactive and the user collaborates with Mo Willems to create new stories. The user creates a personalized story in several ways including recording his or her voice, choosing words from a list and drawing pictures. These newly created sections are then used to fill in the gaps of a story outline which is already provided. This is a kooky, funny app which will have you and your young users laughing out loud. After a few uses, the child will realize that parts of the story outline are the same but this is a great, creative app. A section called Favorite Stories on the home page is empty and that is where the user saves the stories that he or she creates. On first using this app, I thought that this icon would contain favorite stories by Mo Willems which I found slightly misleading. Another creative, fun part of this app is a section where the user can learn to draw the pigeon. Even the youngest users will enjoy drawing on the screen. In his apps, as in his picture books, Mo Willems knows how to make stories and activities appealing to children.
Is using a children's picture book app the same as reading a print book? Reading is a cerebral, text-based activity and involves understanding the meaning of the symbols on the printed page. Picture book apps enhance a reading experience by providing opportunities to create, enjoy and explore.
Many picture book apps priced between one and eight dollars exist, and more are appearing everyday. They provide fun, exciting activities which children may go to after they have read a print book and are interested in more. Also picture book apps provide an alternative to entertainment-oriented apps purely focused on play. Picture book apps may be a solitary activity but they are also something a child and parent, care-giver or sibling could enjoy together. These apps, similar to gaming apps offer, a few moments of distraction or fun for a child, while exposing the child to aspects of literature at the same time. These apps are amusing and fun!