(This is one of a series of posts in the Parentlode Book Club. You can also find a list of books parents either love or hate, or suggestions about what books they might like based on what they already love, or any of the other Bookclub offerings about how to help your children love to read).
Did you hear about the eight year old boy who could lift an entire library with a single hand? I suppose you have, after all it is 2011 and e-readers have been on the market for a few years. As a tool for literacy learning they are invaluable. We know that the way to build our children's capacity as readers and writers is simple: they must read and write daily. Offering fingertip access to entire bookstores on a handheld device makes this incredibly easy. Even better, it removes access barriers, making it logistically possible to connect children in the most remote corners of the earth to thousands of stories.
While an e-reader dramatically increases the amount of literature that can be kept within the four walls of your home, it cannot force your child to sit down and read -- not yet at least. However, there are thousands of apps that offer creative avenues to create a reading and writing culture for children of all ages and abilities.
Here are some of the most engaging, effective and fun apps currently on the market categorized to meet the needs of children at every level of the reading and writing spectrum:
Bob Books #1 - Reading Magic An interactive, user friendly introduction to the world of reading. Multi-level games encourage kids to form words and sentences as the app guides them using letter sounds and read alouds. As they progress through each level they witness a story coming to life at the touch of their finger. Common Sense Media review Don't Let the Pigeon Run Using Mo Willems' wonderful series of Pigeon books, this app is a delightful combination of the read aloud and storytelling. Reading aloud is a profound gift that children should receive every day. It exposes them to new vocabulary, flexes their imagination and creates memories they will carry with them for years. There is a wonderful duality of this app whereby children input their own Pigeon storylines which can also be read aloud. Common Sense Media review Similar apps: Harold and the Purple Crayon, Pat the Bunny
Voice to Text Apps - Dragon Dictation Converting voice recording to text seems to be a basic app and in some cases may come as a standard feature of e-readers. In my opinion, however, this is a phenomenal capability that we should not undervalue. Consider this, even if it is too early for your child to wrap her fingers around a pencil, she can still create a story. This is amazing, and not only for young children but for those who struggle with turning their ideas to recognizable shapes - letters, words, sentences and paragraphs. It alleviates their frustration and lets them tap into creativity, narrative while the e-reader creates a visible trail that allows them to make a connection between the spoken and written word. App Store description Silly Story Starters Sometimes a blank page or e-tablet can be daunting, these apps offer creative writing prompts to start your child along the lead your child to fearlessly leap into a lifelong habit of writing for pleasure, discovery and joy. App Store description Similar app: iQuestions
Comic Life Who hasn't fantasized about being invisible for a day or being granted the gift of flight? This app uploads personal photos and allows children to be the star of their own comic strip adventure - superhero or otherwise. This is also a great reminder that we can't think of "reading" primarily in terms of books, especially in the digital age. The truth is that our lives are full of print coming to us in a variety of ways and comic books or graphic novels are a completely valid vehicle to create voracious readers. Plasq.com Story Builder This is a similar concept to Comic Life but uses the more traditional layout of a classic storybook. As suggested by the title, this app allows children to write and illustrate their own stories using a library of sound recordings (including their own voice), images and, if necessary, prompts to get them started. App Store description Similar apps: Story Patch, Strip Designer
iDiary Another aptly titled app, iDiary encourages creative journaling which is incredibly useful as your child learns the power of self-expression. It is important for children to reflect and relive their experiences, to articulate their feelings and realize they have control over their own story and how it is told. The app also lets them personalize each entry and to use photos and drawings to narrate their story, reiterating that every form of self expression is valid and valuable. Common Sense Media review Similar apps: Pictello, Photo 365, Wreck This App
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