Monday, March 21, 2011

Story app reviewers

A vital component in the ecosystem of traditional print publishing is the reviewers. Busy librarians, teachers, and parents need help to find good books among the thousands of new books that are released every year. Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, and School Library Journal are among the most well-known publications that serve this purpose.

With children’s apps in general proliferating like lagomorphs, buyers need help to find bookish apps. If you’ve searched for story apps on the iTunes store, you’ll probably agree it’s hard to browse efficiently (though they’re trying with the Customers Also Bought banner below each title.) The user reviews on many titles are helpful.. the general agreement is that they’re quite influential. But before anyone can read a product description or user review, they must arrive on the app’s page first, and reviewers can help potential buyers get there. Below are some sites I know of so far, more will undoubtedly spring up in the near future:

Story Apps only
Kirkus Reviews has leapt into the fray with about 75 iPad story app reviews so far.

School Library Journal does not yet have a story app review section, though an advisory group along those lines has met already. In the meantime, a January 1st article by librarian Elizabeth (Betsy) Bird has several reviews as well as proposed criteria for evaluation—
Planet App: Kid’s book apps are everywhere. But are they any good?

...Consider an app the same way you’d consider a picture book. For example, how well is the art integrated with the text? Now consider how well it’s integrated with the app’s interactive features. If a child can move around chirping birds, does that action serve the story? Even if it doesn’t, does it actively distract a child from enjoying the story? Would a kid be inclined to just move around birds all day, entirely forgetting the story being told, or would they be inclined to continue reading or listening to it?...

If other children’s book reviewers have similar plans, we’ll hear about it sooner or later. The next two reviewers are moms with an interest in this topic (go mommy bloggers!):

Digital Storytime over 125 sortable reviews. She has a rating system for several factors: Animation; Audio Quality; Interactivity; Re-readable; Extras; Bedtime
Her blog has a good links list, plus interesting articles such as this one about trends:

“...The trend I’d like to see, however, is for the story to hold the center of the book and have features built around it in a way that makes the book more engaging, more meaningful and maybe even takes learning to another level. As a reader and as the parent of a young reader, this would ease my concerns about interactive storybooks that are more of a distraction for children than an attraction to reading...”

The Greasy Screen discussing eBooks for kids, reading habits, and stuff: 39 reviews so far

Apps for Kids
The line between story apps, educational apps, and game apps can be hard to draw, (don’t ask me to do it!) The following sites review a variety of children’s apps:

The iPhone Mom has reviews categorized by age, I don’t see a number but it looks as though there are quite a few. For example, under toddler there are 6 pages, so about 60 reviews. A notable one advertised on the site is Tickle Finger, which asks the reader to help the main character by literally tickling the bad guys during the story. How fun is that?

Apps for Kids has an ebook section.
Best Kids Apps promises We play all the iPhone, iPad, and Android apps so you don’t have to. They have about 10 reviews in the Books and Stories section.

I Education Apps Review is a community effort to grade “educational apps,” which certainly sounds intriguing. There are 50 reviews for the elementary level, 61 for middle school, and 36 for high school.

I found out about some of these links on the EduApps Twitter list by @Annie_Fox, so check that one out if you’re interested in educational apps.

Loreen Leedy


  1. Thanks Loreen. I will check these all out!

  2. You're welcome, Patti!

    Here is a vital bit of info, now that the iOS has multi-tasking and the apps don’t automatically quit:
    How To Turn Off Apps
    From The iPhone Mom (mentioned in above post.)

  3. Thanks, Loreen. Nice to have all these links in one place!

  4. I found another good site by two teachers who review educational and book apps: Teachers With Apps

  5. Thanks Loreen! Anne from Teachers With Apps

  6. Special Education App Reviews:
    Apps for Children with Special Needs

    Check out the 1-minute video previews, too.