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Best Book Apps for Children

There is no better gift you can give than a love of reading. So why not ‘gift’ apps as Christmas gifts? Not only are many book apps educational, but they are also quick and easy to ‘gift’. Plus, you will be sure that they are one gift that will be used, well after Christmas Day. For information on how to ‘gift’ apps click here.

Book Apps- Are they suitable for young children?

Book apps are a fantastic way to promote basic literacy skills. Book apps can develop a love of literature and engage reluctant readers. In addition, book apps are often more affordable than their traditional counterparts and often contain other activities related to the story that your child can complete after they have read the story.

In a recent study of iPad-owning parents, 72.5% report that they use the device to read with their child. However, parents’ perceptions of book apps vary- some believe they contain helpful features that assist young children’s reading, whilst others believe they contain some distracting features. Like any technology, parents need to use them judiciously and select apps that are developmentally-appropriate and appealing to their child.

When using book apps be mindful of…

1. Distracting Features- There can be extra inclusions in book apps that aren’t included in traditional books- animations, sound effects, interactive elements. Whilst these extra inclusions can help young readers (for example in some book apps unknown words can be clicked by the user and the app will read them aloud), other features can be potentially distracting (for example, hotspots or animations embedded in illustrations can be activated and can detract from the storyline).

TIP- select book apps where you can control or manage the extra features in the app’s settings or main menu. For example, can you turn off the narration or background music?

2. Lack of Imagination- Book apps present the story to your child. When reading book apps children do not have to engage their imagination to create the story ‘in their head’. In contrast, traditional books place much more emphasis on the child using their creative muscle and imagination to construct the story ‘in their head’.

TIP- use book apps in conjunction with traditional books. Book apps should not replace real books that have crinkled pages and smell like old libraries.

3. Interaction Between Parents and Children Changes– Some preliminary research from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center has shown that parent-child interactions change when reading book apps. Parents and children spend more time on non-content related interactions when using iPads, as compared to traditional books. Often time is spent managing the device or solving technical problems or limiting children’s gestures, rather than focusing on the story.

TIP- try to focus your conversation on what is happening in the book and not on controlling the app.

TIP- use the ‘Guided Access’ feature to disable certain parts of the screen from being activated within the app. This is particularly helpful if you are reading with an over-enthusiastic toddler who wants to swipe constantly at the screen (if you are not sure how to do this, watch this video).

A sample of the book apps that I recommend in Parent Seminars is listed below. For more information about our practical parent workshops on apps and technology for young children, click here.

All-Time Favourite Book App for ALL Ages
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore  
Toddlers (2-3 years)
Moo, Baa, La La La  
Auryn- Teddy’s Day  
Hugless Douglass  
Spot Goes to the Farm  
The Going to Bed Book  
Trains- Byron Barton  
Diary of a Wombat  
Preschoolers (3-5 years)
The Wrong Book  
Even Monsters Get Sick  
Dr Seuss books  
The Great Cookie Thief  
Pop Out! The Tale of Peter Rabbit
Starring You Storybooks  
Young Children (5-12 years)
Ice Is Nice! All About the North and South Poles  
Bobo Explores Light  
Bartleby’s Book of Buttons- Volume 2  

Please share any book apps that you have enjoyed with your children, in the comments section below. We’d also love to hear about your experiences with any of the book apps suggested above. Feel free to share this post with family and friends.


I’m Dr. Kristy Goodwin

Researcher, speaker, author, and mum - and not only do I GET it, I’ve dedicated my entire career to helping my fellow professionals and parents explore this exact digital dilemma.

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