Category Archives: Review Sources

What Makes an App “GOOD”? A brochure from Bethpage Public Library, by Linda Greenbaum

Bethpage App BrochureIncorporating digital technology into the library is a particular interest of mine, and I have been trying to keep up to date with the discussion around these issues, particularly as it relates to children. About a year ago, I started a list of resources as I learned about them, including Little eLit. We saw a need, as many other librarians have, among our patrons on how to effectively use devices with their children. We recently got two iPads to lend to patrons to use in the Childrens Room. They cannot be checked out to be used at home. We downloaded some apps used by other Nassau County (NY) libraries as well as others we identified.

As a further service to our patrons, we felt that having a list of reliable and impartial resources they can use to decide which apps they want their children to see and use was more effective than our recommending specific apps. We want to empower parents to learn how to chose what is best for their child as every child is different. When we purchased the iPads, we thought it would be the time to put the brochure together as a supplement along with our tablet policy. I did a more thorough search of additional online resources and completed the final copy for the brochure, which was then designed by my colleagues in the children’s room.

We are happy to share our brochure with others!

Linda Greenbaum is a librarian with Bethpage Public Library in Bethpage, New York. She works with both children and adults.
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Pinning Apps for Little eLit: Want to help? by Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator

In libraries and schools across worldwide, librarians are integrating interactive digital media into their collections, programs, and advisory services. Recognizing the widespread use of a rapidly expanding array of technology tools–useful for collaboration, learning, and discovery–these pioneers are doing what they do best. They’re using their professional experience to identify quality content; select new tools for use in their programs; model how to use materials with kids; help kids and adults navigate the broadening information landscape; and promote literacy across media.

We’ve talked a lot on the Little eLit blog about the use of apps in preschool storytimes and with kids of all ages. Librarians are sharing their individual experiences using interactive digital media with kids, both here and across the web. Search the Internet and you’ll find librarians and educators testing apps and digital media of all kinds with kids, recognizing that the interactive digital media of today is not the passive media of yesterday.

It’s time to share what we know and what we’ve tested with each other on a broader scale. Librarians already using apps in storytimes, and those interested in incorporating new tools and content into their library programs and collections, need to hear from others about what’s good and what works. Let’s sift through the exploding abundance of digital media available for kids and families and put our “appvisory” skills to work.

And let’s do it in one place.

Little eLit has organized a team of librarians to create a series of boards on to collect field-tested apps for preschoolers, toddlers, and elementary age kids. With each pinned app, we’re including easy-to-use metadata along with the representative image so librarians, educators, and parents can find out about an app’s suggested storytime use, its value in early literacy, or what makes it a great app for elementary-age programs. We also have some boards for “anytime” apps that might be excellent, but may not be program material.

We need your help to fill these boards with apps field-tested in storytimes and in elementary programs. Check out our Pinterest how-to!

Will you help us?

If you’re using digital media in your library and you’re a Pinterest user (or want to be one),
contact us
and we’ll get you pinning!

Bye Bye appSmitten!?

I just got this newsletter from appSmitten (would have just included link but it’s broken).  Wonder what the business issues with Apple were?

We wanted to let you know this will be your last appSmitten newsletter. It has been quite an adventure discovering and sharing great apps with you, and while we could have done it forever, we ran into business issues with Apple that we just couldn’t overcome.

Our team, including Jeff Brittain who ensured your newsletters arrived safely in your “inboxes”, Michael Blonsky, who was our technical wizard, Regina Lewis and crew who conducted our research and Annabelle Gould, who made us “the Pinterest of app discovery”, along with our in-house comedy and relief: Joseph, Jim, Matt and Alex worked very hard to bring something fun, interesting and valuable to your life. We hope you enjoyed it. will still be accessible for a few more weeks so please be sure to stop by for app recommendations you might have missed: best apps for kidslong plane ridesfitness out of the gymrecipes and more.

Also please be sure to check out our incredible contributors and their awesome sites They worked tirelessly to find apps for you and have valuable content you’ll enjoy:

Crafts and creativity: Kim Demmon

Education: Laura CoyneAngela Watson and Andrea Oettinger

Family: Katie Balla

Family Travel: Traci and Matt Suppa

Food: Andrea DiMauro

Health & Nutrition: Dr. Melina Jampolis

Home & Design: Melaine Thompson

Photography: Matthew Murray

Personal organization and productivity: Krista Colvin

Shopping: Carley Knobloch

Small Business: Tory Johnson


Most of all, we wanted to thank you for your interest and support. Our appy subscribers made this all worth while.

Adios amigos,

Anna, Ellen & Sarah

ALSC Blog: C&T Post

Check out the ALSC blog.  There’s a great article entitled Apptastic Resources (tee hee, spell check doesn’t like that). Some of the resources mentioned are old standbys, but AppSmitten was new.  It’s now on my list of app review sources. Post written by Andrea Vernola, who is serving on the Children and Technology committee with me.

iPad Best of the Best – 50 Essential Children’s Book Apps (Part 1: Toddlers)

The Digital Media Diet gives great recommendations for book-based and educational apps.  This list is the first of a 4 part series which will be arranged by age; these are recommended for munchkins under the age of 3.  Includes paid and free apps.

How to Rate an App

Many app review sources use rating systems to rate apps for young children.  There are a number of factors to take into consideration, like the 6 Early Literacy skills, but there are also format-driven elements that can determine the quality of an app or eBook for kids.

Common Sense Media has a detailed, thorough description of their rating system which describes how they arrive at the conclusions they do about apps for kids.  There is a section that describes in detail what’s appropriate at each age and includes information about cognitive, social, emotional, physical and technological development. For app ratings they take into account the following factors:

  • Age Appropriateness
  • Consumerism
  • Drinking/drugs and smoking
  • Ease of play
  • Language
  • Learning potential
  • Online privacy and safety
  • Positive messages
  • Positive role models
  • Scariness
  • Sexy stuff (ha! I like how they word that)
  • Violence

Digital Storytime gives an in-depth overview of their rating system as well.  They take into account the following factors, as well as a general editorial overview.

  • Animation
  • Audio
  • Bedtime
  • Educational
  • Extras
  • Interactivity
  • Originality
  • Re-Readability

If you do a Google search for “how to rate an app” there are a whole bunch of websites that rate apps and publish their rating system.  Once we get our ducks in a row with funding and devices for our circulating tablet programs we’ll be taking a look at many of these sources, and putting together our own app rating rubric to determine which apps and eBooks should be included.

Horn Book Recommends Apps

The Horn Book recently published a list of recommended apps for various age groups: preschool, primary, intermediate and older.  This list contains eBooks mentioned in the most recent edition of the Horn Book Magazine. It was such an awesome issue we blogged out it here.

Here are their recommendations for preschoolers:

A Present for Milo by Mike Austin (Ruckus Mobile Media)
Kitten Milo chases a mouse until they reach—surprise!—a birthday party. Clever interactive elements and crisp sound effects accentuate the cleanly drawn pictures and simple text.

The Going to Bed Book by Sandra Boynton (Boynton Moo Media/Loud Crow Interactive)
This adaptation honors the original board book while adding just the right amount of pizzazz with smart interactivity, Billy J. Kramer’s soothing narration, and gentle background music.

Spot the Dot by David A. Carter (Ruckus Mobile Media)
In this concept-learning app, users search for colored dots hidden in increasingly complex, kaleidoscopic screens of bright shapes.

Freight Train by Donald Crews (Curious Puppy)
Like the book, this app offers a simple, logical presentation of concepts; users explore many-hued train cars (each with a different purpose) to reveal cargo, staff, and stock.

Peekaboo Forest by Charley Harper (Night & Day Studios)
Part concept book, part game, this app reconfigures wildlife artist Harper’s work into a series of seasonal forest settings. Touch a peeking-out tail or ear to reveal a forest creature and its name.

Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt (Random/Smashing Ideas, Inc.)
Inspired by the lift-the-flap classic, this app for offers new opportunities to play with Paul, Judy, and Bunny. Perky, clear instructions help pre-readers navigate the retro-illustrated activities.

The Monster at the End of This Book by Jon Stone; illus. by Michael Smollin (Callaway Digital Arts/Sesame Workshop)
Grover, attempting to contain the “monster” lurking at story’s end, tempts readers to explore. The frantically animated muppet, spot-on narration, and humorous sound effects add to the fun.

Digital Storytime has Expanded!

I’ve been on the hunt for great apps that are available on the Kindle Fire or for Android, and I see that Digital Storytime now has the option of sorting by apps for Android, Kindle, iPad or Nook.  You can still sort by age, rating, length, and, my favourite, quality.  The quality setting includes the overall rating, and also individual ratings for animation, audio quality, interactivity, re-readability,   bedtime, educational, originality and games/puzzles/extras.

I’m so glad that there are so many more apps out there for Android, because while I love Dr Seuss and Sandra Boynton, there still aren’t nearly as many good quality apps and eBooks available for anything other than the iPad.  Many other review sources only review content for Apple products, and it’s nice to see that the market for non-Apple apps is getting strong enough that developers are putting effort into making their products available for a number of different platforms.

App Review Source: Smart Apps for Kids

I just found a great new review site called Smart Apps for Kids. This is an easy to navigate blog that includes a free app of the day section, as well as top 10 lists: Editor’s picks, Free and Reader’s picks.  You can also limit by age group- I like how they separate out toddlers and preschoolers, though toddlers are defined as 1-3 (the American Academy of Pediatrics would say that children under the age of 2 should’t be looking at any kind of screen at all).

The site’s goal is to “to be the most complete source for parents and educators looking for info on an app before a purchase,” and they do offer honest positive and negative reviews for iPad/iPhone apps, as well as a star-based rating system.  You can see what they’re up to via facebook, email, RSS or Twitter.  Check out their facebook page for other review sources- they’ve “liked” a number of good ones.

Horn Book Special Issue Books Remixed: Reading in the Digital Age

Squee!!!!! Have you seen the March/April issue of the Horn Book? It’s all things eBooks! There are some really good articles in there, and a few of them are available online:

The Making of Freight Train…. the App

What Makes a Good Picture Book App?

Medium Cool: Talking about eBooks with Dan Yaccarino

Most of the articles have numerous recommendations for good eBooks (I’ve got a list started of ones I plan to download and read) and as I flipped through the paper copy today I saw that some familiar print favourites have been made into apps, like Five Little Pumpkins and the aforementioned Freight Train. Some other big name authors whose books have been turned into good quality children’s eBooks include Sandra Boynton, Mo Willems, Beatrix Potter and Weird Al Yankovic.

Here’s a list of some eBooks they recommend:

A Present for Milo (Ruckus Mobile Media) by Mike Austin review

The Going to Bed Book (Boynton Moo Media/Loud Crow Interactive) by Sandra Boynton review

Freight Train (Curious Puppy) by Donald Crews review

How Rocket Learned to Read (Random) by Tad Hills

Pat the Bunny (Random/Smashing Ideas, Inc.) by Dorothy Kunhardt

Pop-Out! The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Loud Crow Interactive) by Beatrix Potter

Wild About Books (Random/Smashing Ideas, Inc.) by Judy Sierra; illus. by Marc Brown review

The Monster at the End of This Book (Callaway Digital Arts/Sesame Workshop) by Jon Stone; illus. by Michael Smollin

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App! (Hyperion/Small Planet Digital) by Mo Willems review

When I Grow Up (Bean Creative) by Al Yankovic; illus. by Wes Hargis review

Cinderella: A 3-D Fairy Tale (Nosy Crow) review

The Three Little Pigs: A 3-D Fairy Tale (Nosy Crow) review