Interactive Children’s Books
Interactive children’s books have been around since the time I was a child, and that has been over 50 years ago. I would interact with my books by drawing in them. I’m joking, though I did draw in most of my books. Interactivity in books was a part of my young reading experience. My favorite interactive books were pop-ups. It was a thrill to turn a page and see it fan up to a castle or a ship on the rolling seas. Another type of interactive children’s books used tabs that extended from a folded-over page. By pulling on the tabs, one could make the eyes blink on a cartoon character or an arm swing a baseball bat.
For those who decry interactive ebooks as gimmicky, they might consider that publishers have always used ‘gimmicks’ to sell children’s literature. In fact, interactive gimmicks are used to sell adult ebooks as well. Consider the amount of pinching, scrolling, tapping, searching and other actions involved in reading the typical ebook on tablet devices. Of course, they’re not gimmicks, but a continuing evolution of reading. Very little reading we do electronically is comparable to opening a traditional book, leaning back and simply flipping one page after another. One unfortunate outcome of book technology it that future readers may consider page flipping boring and thus miss out on that tactile experience.
Children Teaching Children
We’re only beginning to scratch the surface of what can be accomplished in interactrive children’s ebooks. Some children’s books use interaction primarily for entertainment; swipe the cow’s head and it bobs. Tap it and it goes moo. On the other hand, children’s interactive ebooks can be highly educational. Children can answer math questions, explore planets in rotational 3D and learn foreign languages on an ebook.
The focus at the Children’s Book Fair in Bologna, Italy was almost entirely on interactive editions for iPad. One subheading of Sophie Rochester’s article ‘Storytime Goes Digital’ read, ‘Apps Over Ebooks, iPads Over Everything Else’. The conference was in March of this year, prior to the unveiling of Kindle Fire, so Apple’s iPad may get some competition for the book app space.
Possibly the most promising aspect of interactive children’s books on digital devices lies in not in the child’s interaction with the device, but with other children through internet connectivity. They will learn from one another.
Children have been interacting with their counterparts around the world for some time. Games and Facebook have provided countless hours of social interaction. iOS developers of children’s book apps are offering currated stores that allow content to be filtered and delivered safely between young readers. With the focus of education in interactive children’s books, we could see the true value of this technology.