I’ve previously talked up the exciting nature of interactive children’s books as applications, as well as linked to some research discussing their effectiveness (or lack of) as teaching tools, but Jon Page recently posted a link to this editorial by journalist Farhad Manjoo, who asks:
When a young reader engages with the Another Monster app, what is he doing? Is he reading a book? Playing a video game? Watching TV? It’s hard to say.
The Another Monster app is an extreme example of what I’ve found to be a common problem with children’s books made for the iPad. They offer too many different kinds of experiences, becoming muddled in the process – and, more importantly, missing the point of children’s books, which is to get kids excited about reading.
I agree with him to a point. Electronic children’s books lie on a spectrum from pure digital conversions to fully interactive games-with-text. Farhad raises good points about children being easily distracted by the tempting ‘home’ button on the iPad, and why they would concentrate on the text in front of them with so many other tempting options, but this really highlights a problem with the hardware, not the individual story applications.
This tempting-home-button problem is fixed in the latest upgrade to the iPad’s operating system, iOS 6, with a setting known as Single App mode, or Guided Access. This locks the device into one application, and optionally disable parts of the screen, meaning Farhad’s complaint about children clicking away from a book application is pretty much addressed (of course iOS 6 will not be available on the first generation iPad, which is the model most often repurposed for children, so…yeah…but my point still stands).
Regardless, it’s a good article about a parent’s experience with digital children’s books.