ECRR 2.0: Using Apps and eBooks in Early Literacy Programs

Many thanks to Dorothy Stoltz, Dr Chip Donohue, Carisa Kluver, Naomi Smith, Dr Betsy Diamant-Cohen & Tess Prendergast for serving on our ECRR 2.0: Using Apps and eBooks in Early Literacy Programs panel at ALA in Las Vegas this past weekend. Below are my brief slides, Chip’s slides, Carisa’s book app review criteria, Naomi & Tess’ resources & app recommendations, and all the other apps that everyone shared, plus apps that came up in discussion after the panel.

Naomi Smith


Pierce County Library’s Digital Kids site: tips on healthy media use, library e-book recommendations, and app recommendations from librarians for Android and iOS devices aimed at ages 2-6 and their caregivers.

Apps demoed:

Letter School from Sanoma Netherlands BV—Writing

Endless Alphabet from Originator—Talking, Playing, Vocabulary

Bunny Fun: Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes  from Auryn Media–Singing

The Monster at the End of This Book  from Sesame Workshop—Reading and Playing

Tess Prendergast

Collins Big Cat: It Was a Cold, Dark Night Story Creator By HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Tess’s review:
For a free app, parents, caregivers and children get a lot! This is a lovely bedtime story app book that is suitable to read to children ages 2 and up. Emerging readers will love reading it themselves or listening to the charming narration. Although it has interactive elements on each page (swishing leaves, glowing lights etc.) none of them seem particularly distracting from the main story, which is about Ned the hedgehog’s search for a cozy place to sleep for the winter. After finishing the story, readers can set about making up their own stories, using a collection of illustrations and backgrounds. Once a scene has been created, you can add both written and spoken text to accompany each page. The story is suitable for telling at storytime, preferably projected onto a screen for good visibility. Following that, I recommend briefly demonstrating how parents and their children can make up their own night time stories to tell and retell. If you have iPads in your library available for families to use, I highly recommend this app. This would be a particularly good choice for parent-child app workshops where participants have time to play with the app together.

Our Story by the Open University

Tess’s review:
I found out about this free app when I read a recent academic paper about the use of iPads in early childhood classrooms that was written by some UK scholars (Flewitt, Messer, & Kucirkova, 2014). I downloaded the app immediately and started playing with it. Basically, it is allows you to write and narrate simple books using the device’s camera roll pictures to illustrate your story. I used photographs from a recent program to write and narrate a short book but the possibilities are endless. Anything that can be captured on the camera can be incorporated into books. The books can be saved and easily sent as pdfs and/or audiovisual files to anyone else over email. Because of its simplicity, this would be a great app to recommend to parents of very young children who want to make stories about their daily lives together with their children to send to grandparents or other relatives and friends. I particularly like the ease by which one can add recordings to accompany the pictures. It would be wonderful to receive a story narrated with a young child’s first words wouldn’t it? The pdf versions can easily be printed and bound into lovely little books. Highly recommended for parents and anyone else who works with young children.


Flewitt, R., Messer, D., & Kucirkova, N. (2014). New directions for early literacy in a digital age: The iPad. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. doi: 10.1177/1468798414533560

Superhero Booth HD for iPad

Tess’s review:
I used this .99 cent app as part of a Superhero party for our summer reading club. We had 5 stations: books; art; Captain Underpants names chart; puzzles & quizzes; photo booth. We took pictures of the kids one at a time and helped them select their superhero embellishments. We then printed them out and emailed the pictures to their parents’ email addresses. They were really cute and kids loved making themselves into superheroes!

Go Away, Big Green Monster! for iPad By Night & Day Studios, Inc.

Tess’s review:
Probably one of the best children’s book apps, this version of the perfect picture book has it all. A read aloud option, two different narrated options (one by a child, the other by the original book’s author, Ed Emberley) and a wonderful sing-a-long version. I personally recommend using this app in storytime programs or parent-child app workshops only after reading the traditional print book at least once all the way through. I have successfully used this app in Halloween or Monster themed programs as well as in early childhood education workshops where book apps for young children are examined and discussed.

Mother Goose on the Loose App

Carisa’s Criteria for Reviewing Book Apps:

Criteria Consistent Across Formats for Kid’s Illustrated Content (ebooks, apps, print)

New Criteria to Consider for Digital Formats

High Quality Illustrations

Relevant enhancements that support narrative

Easy to Read, Large Font

Seamless integration of features & enhancements

Developmentally Appropriate Content (Length, Reading Level, Topics, Language)

Audio & Sound effects that don’t interfere with voice-over or other features.

Well-written, nicely paced & chunked text

Technical polish, stability, ease of use & navigation settings, flexible use.

High Quality Content (not thinly disguised advertisement for game, movie, food, etc.)

No ads, in-app purchases & links that leave the app (unless under sufficient parental gate).

Engaging content worth of return visits

Clearly identified author/illustrator/producer.

Ways to extend beyond the book

Quality games or other extras (if present) that do not interrupt narrative or reading comprehension.


Posted on July 4, 2014, in Literacy. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. It looks like the Bunny Fun: Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes app that I demoed is now only available in the US as part of an Auryn subscription based app. I did not realize this at the time of demonstration. Off the top of my head, I would recommend Laurie Berkner Sings app as a “Singing” app for group use in story time, but I would caution parents that there are a lot of in app purchases. For preschool and up, Toca Band would also be fun. –Naomi

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