By: Guest Blogger Lisa Johnson

There is much discussion about how the iPad should be used. One hot topic focuses on interactive books and if they harm or help reading skills. Cleaning out my preschool son’s closet, I came across my old Sears red and white checkered record player and a box full of books with accompanying records ranging from “Fox and the Hound” to the “Muppets”. I grew up with a passion for reading and literature that encompasses books on record and tape as well as traditional hardbacks. I would like to think I have passed on this passion and voracity for literature and wonder to my two boys.


How will the iPad change the reading experience?

Though I don’t feel the iPad is a replacement for cuddling up and sharing reading time with my sons before bed, I do feel the iPad and all of its interactive marvel not only offers an additional element of engagement but a magical opportunity for building fluency, flow, and touching on all styles of learning (e.g. being able to listen, touch, see, etc…). The iPad is truly the next step and a much needed progression from books on tape/CD or audio books.

While the beauty of most interactive books is their intuitive design and features (e.g. auto-play or narration, highlighted text as it is read, picture/word association), I still feel there are ways to raise the literacy bar.



Before I highlight my favorite interactive books, I would like to share a few ideas for parents to build on what the iPad already offers. To ensure that these interactive books serve as educational tools for literacy, I recommend always reading the book once together with your child prior to letting them do so independently.

During our read, I try to:

    • point out difficult words or discuss the meaning of idioms
    • highlight rhymes
    • discuss imagery, illustrations and details, differences in characters emotions
    • expand on elements of setting or plot and build connections (e.g. what do you think will happen next? have you ever been to a forest? do you remember when we went to the zoo?)
    • strengthen critical thinking skills (e.g. how do you think the character feels? why do you think he is upset? how would you have reacted to that same situation?)
    • practice summarization and sequencing (e.g. what happened to the character?, what happened first/next/last?)
    • foster discussion skills (e.g. what was your favorite part of the book? what was your favorite character and why?)

The Wolf and the Seven Lambs: 3D Pop-up Book


I find the initial time to introduce the book to a child is invaluable in building their own fluency and reading comprehension skills and many of the topics and elements discussed will be carried with them in future independent readings.



Can you spot all 16 mistakes?

And now without further ado… (book chime sound to next page)… here is a list of some of my favorite “mostly” free interactive iPad books for primary and preschool.

    • I Like Books by Grasshopper Apps: They just released a “37 Picture Books for Kids in 1 App” for free! They do have the option to read to you as well as customizable features that allow users to rewrite and record their own story.
    • LAZ leveled readers by Language Technologies: There are many of these and multiple titles that are free. Currently levels extend from preschool to 3rd grade.
    • A Story Before Bed: Record yourself and your child reading a story with audio and video. This collection is also available online.
    • Hallmark’s Watson, Cooper, Jingle, Abigail : All are free, have puzzles, and interact with the plush Hallmark toy.
    • Toucan Toucan’t: This is an amusing tale with options to record your own narration or use the original audio.
    • Wild Fables: Currently comes with 3 free fables and an option to buy others (each for 99 cents). Each book is fully interactive and teaches a message.
    • How My Dog Saved Earth: Allows you and your dog to star in the tale (if you have an iPad 2).
    • The Biggest Pizza Ever by JibJab!: Allows your child to star in an interactive book (currently 4 other additional titles are available for in-app purchase).
    • The Wolf and the Seven Lambs: $ this is a beautifully crafted paid interactive pop-up book that will highlight the words as it reads them
    • Spot the Mistake $ this interactive activity book is well worth the $5.99. Not only will it read the story, each page comes with a hidden mistake activity.

Let's Rhyme with JibJab Jr.



Books that do not provide a narration feature can be read to your child by turning on the Voice Over function found in settings (Settings/General/Accessibility/VoiceOver: On). Pay attention to the changes in gestures that will occur with VoiceOver activated.

Interested in other interactive books, check out these: 5 additional titles by well-known authors and top 10 iPad book apps for Halloween.

Also check out: How will iPad picture books affect young reader’s literacy?

Stay tuned for upcoming topics from guest CE blogger Lisa Johnson (a.k.a techchef4u)…


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