December 20, 2014

Book App Alliance Aids Discovery of Kids’ Interactive Books

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When you can’t beat them, join them.

That’s why Karen Robertson and other children’s authors decided to launch the Book App Alliance, a new tool for finding quality interactive books. The alliance aims to help locate book apps amid the tides of Disney, Dora, and Dr. Seuss products.

“We decided to join together to form an organization that could help educate the market on what book apps are and how to discover the hidden gems in the App Store,” says Robertson by email.

Robertson, author of the award-winning “Treasure Kai” books app series, created the Alliance after attending a conference last year. She found that parents, grandparents, and teachers were often unaware of the kinds of things that books apps or interactive books could offer.

Robertson and her five co-founders launched the group in October. While they hope that the Alliance will draw more attention to books apps, they also want to foster best practices with these digital literacy tools.

“One of the criteria for author membership is that the apps are COPPA compliant, and we encourage members to participate in the Moms with Apps’ KNOW what’s inside program,” says Robertson, referring to a feature indicating that an app has privacy policies in place.

Amid the vast offering of children’s apps, educators and parents often have difficulty discovering ones that relate to lessons they wish to teach—and are also engaging. While many apps are meant to purely entertain, others have an educational message; some combine both. As more digital devices incorporate touch screens—from iPads to Kindle Fires—interactive apps are increasingly popular.

Review sites are also helpful in offering app descriptions and reviews. Apptastic focuses specifically on educational apps. Digital Storytime features reviews, deals, and even categorizes apps by language. The Alliance is working with the latter site, while also collaborating with Moms with Apps and Apps with Curriculum.

Robertson discovered interactive books apps, she says, when her dyslexic son first picked up an iPad in June 2010 and selected storybook apps over game apps. She finds that they provide a unique way for children to experience a story through touch, sound, sight, and other sensory cues.

Kids engaged with one of Karen Robertson’s “Treasure Kai” book apps.

“Finally [my son] had a way to engage with reading in a way that got him excited, and I’ve seen the same reaction from students of all reading abilities,” Roberston says.

She also realized that locating them can be tricky. The App Store, Google Play, and other online sites often feature so-called “Top” apps, with additional apps difficult to locate unless you search them by name.

The Alliance aims to change that. “Interactive book apps uniquely deliver a multi-sensory way for kids to experience a story,” says Robertson. “They engage their sight through animation, hearing through narration, sound effects and music, and touch through interactive, touchable elements that encourage discoverability and bring the reader into the narrative.”

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Lauren Barack About Lauren Barack

School Library Journal contributing editor Lauren Barack writes about the connection between media and education, business, and technology. A recipient of the Loeb Award for online journalism, she can be found at www.laurenbarack.com.

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