World Book Day comes around on March 5th, a chance to celebrate stories, books, characters and reading! Despite being an avid supporter of EdTech, I am as keen as any for children to put down the screens and devices on this day and read and celebrate books in the traditional way!
However, by engaging technology where appropriate, we can make reading more accessible to some children, encourage reluctant readers and enable children to share their favourite stories in exciting, motivating ways.
So in this blog post for World Book Day 2020, we will look at different ways to use technology for reading books, for sharing books and finally, for creating (digital) books.
Apple Books (formerly known as iBooks) has a wide range of digital children's books to download to iPads. Digital versions of the books often read in primary and secondary classrooms usually come with a price tag, but there are plenty of free books available too. To find books, try opening the Top Charts section where you will see the most popular paid-for and free books. Many children classics are also available for free and older children may enjoy famous titles such as Little Women.
Unlike some stand-alone storybook apps, stories read through Apple Books are not overloaded with sounds or animations and other features that may be a distraction from the actual reading. However, many books do support the accessibility features of Apple Books, including the ability to change the font size, background colour and have words read aloud when selected.
Another way to access books in a digital format, and in this case a library of titles curated for schools, is through the Reading Journey app for iOS. Not only does this enable access to exciting, high-quality books for KS2 and KS3, but it also has features such as Author of the Month, Reading Rewards and an inbuilt Reading Journal. Find out more about this app, here.
It’s great for children to share a book they love, and to tell people why they love it, who their favourite character is and why. They can retell their favourite part of the story or think about what might happen next, using their own imaginations to extend the story and characters further.
Spoken book reviews could be filmed using the built-in cameras in iPads or Chromebooks. If the child is filmed in front of a green screen, then the book cover could be superimposed over the background giving a news-report type of appearance. An easy way to do this is with the iPad app Green Screen by Do Ink.
If the reviewer is camera shy, apps such as Puppet Pals HD enable the user to record their own voice but use animated characters instead of their own image.
Another way of using animation to share a book review is with the app Morfo 3D Face Booth, through which the user can make any image talk!
Of course, the book review doesn’t necessarily need a visual element and instead could be recorded as a podcast, using a sound recording tool such as Audacity (Windows) or something as simple as the web-based Online Voice Recorder. I fondly recall working with Year 1 children, some years ago, as they role-played characters from Cinderella. The characters were interviewed by other children, their conversations being recorded using Audacity. The resulting MP3s were shared on the school website for parents/carers to hear.
Child-friendly blogging tools enable children to share written book reviews with their peers, who can leave comments (if enabled.) Tools such as 2Blog (part of 2Simple Purple Mash) or J2Bloggy (Part of the Just2Easy J2e tool set) enable blogging in a safe ‘walled garden’ environment.
Schools using G Suite for Education could even have pupils use Google Sites to create websites about the books they love, writing reviews, author-biographies and more.
Perhaps the most exciting way for children to use technology around World Book Day is for creating their own multimedia stories and books. With multifunctional devices, that include touch-screens, cameras and microphones, it’s never been easier to do so.
Simple apps such as Book Creator* (iPad / Chrome) allow users to create pages and then add text, sound buttons, images and video clips, creating a truly multimedia experience for the reader. Templates are also available for making comics. Little Story Creator is another iPad app makes it easy to write digital books that include stickers, sounds and more.
If the author wants to use animation in their onscreen story, there are plenty of iPad apps to help them do so. I mentioned Puppet Pals HD and Morfo 3D Face Booth above, and younger children may enjoy using Chatterpix Kids to give their own voice to an image in order to tell a short story or share an idea.
You don’t need dedicated book-making apps to make digital books, however, and office tools such as Microsoft Powerpoint or Google Slides support text, images, sounds and videos and can be used in a similar way, to enable children to share their creativity in a digital format.
[*Note the author of this blog post is a Book Creator Ambassador]