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The best book apps for kids go beyond basic bells and whistles to create a truly interactive reading experience that enhances language development, reading comprehension and fosters a life-long love of books.
With the bewildering number of interactive book apps available today, how can you evaluate whether an application really promotes reading and language skills—or is just a jazzed-up game in disguise?
The key to effective interactive reading is a shared experience, especially in the early years, says Dr. Collen Huebner, a psychologist and researcher at the University of Washington. "The best way to use books for this purpose is to make shared reading highly interactive, with the child in the lead," Huebner reveals. "...The result is an expanded vocabulary, grammar and communication skills that are essential stepping stones to the skills needed later, to learn to read."
Huebner's research shows that a shared text and language-based experience between a parent and child is essential for future reading success.
For a wow-worthy experience that engages you and your budding reader check out our interactive picks for the best book apps:
- Nighty Night! HD—Bedtime stories ($2.99, preschool) Avoid bedtime battles with his expertly crafted app. Gorgeous graphics, a slow pace and tranquil tunes invite your chid to help put everyone to sleep by turning out lights and tucking baby animals in—the sheep, dogs, pigs and other animals settle even make sleepy sounds—around the farmhouse and barn. Want more furry friends to put to sleep? Three additional animals are only $0.99. By the end of the book, your little one will be ready to drift off to dreamland.
- Scruffy Kitty ($4.99, preschool) Great graphics and lots of extra features to spark imagination and creativity. Scruffy is a stray that finds his way into a family and ends up staying. The book is a standard "touch and swipe" picture book, but with some surprising twists. The text is available in 5 different languages, making it perfect for multilingual learners, and there's a "sticker mode" where your child can take objects from the book and create his own scenes and storylines.
- Harold and the Purple Crayon ($6.99, preschool) Help your child flex his fine motor skills with this app, featuring a simple interface, Harold, and his beloved purple crayon. Choose the "Read to Me" feature to follow along and practice vocabulary, or "Touch Tale" to have your kid help the story along on his own. He can even take control of the crayon to help Harold draw the moon and stars.
- Bartleby's Book of Buttons ($0.99, preschool) This highly interactive app is part book, part puzzle and a highly engaging story. Your little learner is prompted to push buttons as Bartleby tackles adventures, tapping buttons to move the story along. Be sure your kid understands the story; it's crucial to help Bartleby. This digital pop-up book offers practice with reading comprehension, tactile response and following directions. Lots of engagement opportunities will keep your child engrossed in the story time and time again.
- Don't Let the Pigeon Run This App! ($4.99, kindergarten) Bring this award-winning book series by Mo Willems to life with this app, boasting features like drawing lessons, sound effects and Mad Lib-style story creation. Shake to select random story elements, or pick from silly selections to piece together your tale. Can your child stop that pesky pigeon from getting into mischief?
- Timo and the Magical Picture Book ($1.99, first grade) Pique your kid's curiosity with this magical tale, which warns your little one, "Don't shake this book!" As your child interacts with the app, he'll love watching as Timo—who's stuck inside of an upside-down story world—responds to his to tilts, turns and touches. Encourage him to tap on characters and images—your little reader will be delighted by his control over the story. Fantastic effects and an imaginative plot makes this a must-have for your digital library.
- Weird But True ($1.99, first grade) This non-fiction interactive book app builds on your kid's fascination with the freaky. The facts presented are strange, but educational, and children can rate them on a "weird-o-meter". Sounds effects and moving parts complete the package. A great way to captivate your child's attention while introducing him to natural and social sciences.
- The Land of Me: Story Time (free, second grade) Storytelling helps little ones tap into their imagination, and hone communication and language skills. Help your budding author get started with this app, featuring 27 stories in a "choose your own adventure" interface. Opportunities to choose the hero, theme and story direction (along with exercising creativity) will encourage your child to visit this book again and again.
- Bobo Explores Light ($4.99, third grade) Dive into the wonderful world of light—bright, bendable, and colorful—with Bobo, the adorable illuminated robot. This innovative app encourages touch and exploration at every turn—from the "touch dial" table of contents to the tangible solar system. Your little scientist will be spellbound by Bobo's guidance, glowing graphics and a simple interface.
- The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore ($4.99, third grade) This award-winning, interactive storybook begins with a love of the written word. The enchanting tale introduces your kid to Mr. Lessmore in a world where books reciprocate the love they receive. Stunning graphics, simple animation and a moving plot help transform this tech app into a love story to print and picture books. Far from moving your child away from traditional reading, Mr. Lessmore makes an old-fashioned, book-filled world seem magical.
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