I've always been a total bookworm. When I was a toddler, I'd fall asleep holding an open book in my hands and I still remember hiding under the duvet with a torch reading way past my bedtime ! Even these days as an adult, I always have one - if not several ! - books on the go and reading a chapter (or three) at bedtime is still an important part of my winding-down-for-sleep routine. Despite all my friends telling me I should invest in an e-reader, I really don't want to move away from good old-fashioned paperbacks - the smell of the paper, the feel of the grain, the conspiratorial whisper of the page turning are all part of the simple pleasures that reading offers.
The Madhouse kids aren't from the same generation as me though. Even physical books need added extras to keep their interest up - flaps to lift, wheels to turn, buttons to press to make noises or music, "record and play back your voice" buttons ... Pierre even has a book with a clockwork fire engine that runs around the grooves carved into the pages ! Hands-on interactivity is definitely an integral part of the modern reading experience.
Which is where apps can come in. Video games and "screentime" get very bad press in general, but some of the reading apps that we have discovered have actually been really educational, not to mention motivational for beginner readers. The best ones strike a happy medium between the written word and the fun bits. While it's all well and good listening to someone read you a story (anyone remember Jackanory?!), it's even better if you can turn on "subtitles" so that your little learner can associate the word on the page with the words being read. The next logical stage is for your child to read the story, and good reading apps allow you to click on a word when you get stuck so that you hear it being read (which is basically what the LeapPad offers, without having to keep track of all the books and cartridges scattered all over the house!). Being able to click on the screen to find "hidden" surprises and animations or play bonus games at the end of the story act as a motivational tool/reward and also allow pre-schoolers to join in with storytime before they can read. Many of the storybook apps have fabulous narrators and sound effects that I couldn't hope to rival at bedtime (although that's still an important moment of quality time/bonding to spend with the kids).
We've already reviewed quite a few storybook apps here on the blog - check out my apps section to find them - and I have a few more to review over the coming weeks. In order to discover what storybook apps can offer, I was also gifted a new animated book app of The Frog Prince.
While they don't replace the traditional bedtime story that offers a moment of special child/parent time at the end of the day, I think these kinds of apps can definitely be a useful tool, especially for reluctant readers or those who need a little help to keep their interest levels up. Knowing that the long summer holidays are looming, they will also be a fun way of encouraging kids to keep practising their literary skills while thinking they are playing rather than doing school work. Sneaky, huh?!
Disclosure : I received a download of The Frog Prince animated storybook app in order to blog about how technology is changing story time and be entered into a prize draw to win an ipad mini.
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