I Can Go Anywhere

If you don’t remember Reading Rainbow, featuring Kunta Kinte, Geordie Laforge, LeVar Burton and a bunch of little kids doing book reports for PBS, you had a deprived childhood.

But never fear! You can make up for it now, because Reading Rainbow is now available in app form.

readingrainbowI know, I sound like an advertisement, but really I’m just excited to have found this app for my kids.

The app itself is free, but you have to pay to subscribe to what is essentially a bottomless pit of kids’ books. You can keep up to five books at a time downloaded in your virtual “backpack.” You can return them and swap them out for other books any time you have Internet access. The app has a fun “island” theme, where, once having chosen some topics of interest, you can visit these islands and find books there that suit your favorite things.

It costs $10 per month or $30 for six months. I just went ahead and signed up for the six months, because while $3o may sound like a lot for an app, what it is is six months of unlimited picture book access. I couldn’t buy the five picture books in the backpack for $30. So I consider it a major bargain.

And look, I hear you out there going “libraries!” And I see your wagging fingers. But electronic books and electronic access to books are a good thing too. And while a physical trip the physical library is undeniably a good thing, so is the ability to check out and return books from the kitchen table when a trip to the library is just not in the cards. And frankly, my kids are really hard on books. This way, I don’t have to worry about torn pages (a dropped iPad is another matter).

I do want my kids’ primary association with the word “book” to be a thing made out of paper. But I’m not sure if it really matters–I am even less sure if it will matter when they are older. Mainly, what I want them to do is love reading and love books. And access to so many books can never be a bad thing in my opinion.

What do you think about kids and e-books?

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6 thoughts on “I Can Go Anywhere

  1. I think that when my son has children of his own, the only library that they’ll be able to visit will be in a museum, alongside other old buildings and shops, such as pubs, churches and corner shops.

    My son and I go to the library every week and my son really enjoys picking a few books for bedtime stories. He has loads of old and new books in his bedroom. I have dozens of books and can’t imagine living in a home without them.

    However, I do understand that e-books are the future, whether I like it or not. They offer unlimited choice and access, are affordable and don’t take up so much room.

    I read ebooks sometimes, usually on my phone when I am waiting for an appointment or travelling on the train. My son knows I read books in this way, but has never wanted to himself. When he is older I will encourage him to because I believe it is absolutely vital for all of todays children to be as technologically advanced as possible. This is their reality!

  2. Well, I encourage you to check your local library’s e-book offerings, as well (although I THINK that the publishers are being more generous with YA and adult genre fiction than with picture-book contracts, just as the moment). And I think that churches, corner shops, and libraries will all still exist in 30 years, although the libraries will probably be the most transformed. And I do wonder how the ebook experience will alter kids’ understanding of certain print concepts (the front and back of a book, the beginning and end of a story, the idea of chronological progression, etc.) — which is just a fancy way of saying that Wesley Crusher may not have had the same set of literacy building blocks as Wil Wheaton, only the writers never thought of that when they gave W.C. a tablet computer on TNG. And I do wonder about the effects of interactive eBooks on attention span, etc.

    But I love my Kindle. And my young nieces are adorably engaged with the eBooks on their Kindle Fire. And I tend to think that all engagement with words and story is good, in multiple senses of the world.

    And I think LaVar Burton is a god, so there’s that. 🙂

    [Now that I’ve received my invite, I can’t decide whether to pull the trigger on Oyster or not. I’ve been waiting for a Netflix-for-books service for years, and now that it’s here, I have so many QUESTIONS.]

    • For the record, the books from the Reading Rainbow app are minimally interactive. They have the occasional one-extra-frame animation in the pictures, marked by a little sparkle to let you know to touch there. It’s not even as “interactive” in that sense as a pop-up, or pull-the-flap book. It bothered me at first, until I remembered that.

      Selina was engrossed in all five of her first books, for a couple of hours. She went through each one, then returned again and again to her three favorites.

      I also have the notion that if we come across any we truly adore, I can pick us up our own “real” copy for the shelves.

      I wonder how long before I stop feeling I need “real” copies of my most favorites?

      (And I have glanced at the library’s web site for e-books, but I have yet to check any out. NOt sure about picture books either.)

  3. I encourage you to try the library’s eBooks. Most of what I’ve wanted for my suburban bookclub has had a ridiculous wait-list, but I’ve found a fair selection on the backlist and my children have found a ton of popular YA titles. The option to “pick up” another book at 9pm, because they’ve already plowed through the three books they got at the physical library that day, is practically priceless.

    (I’m not even sure that digitally interactive “books” are such a bad thing, if we imagine that LOTS of information might be acquired that way in the future. I don’t have a clear picture of how I acquire information right now — I think I am far less engaged with A/V sources, being an NPR/NYTimes/various-alt-online-stuff person — but linear, paper books might be only one way of experiencing stories and gathering information in the future, and I think I’m OK with that. It’s only been in the past 8 months that YouTube videos have started to compete seriously with books for kids’ attention, and I still haven’t decided how much of that reflects changing access and how much is developmental. I am more intrigued by the ways that digital information break the “start at the front, progress to the back, easily navigate forward and backward by sticking your finger in the book” habits of the last millennia. I suppose the folks who thought scrolls worked better than quartos had similar questions about the future.)

    • I was just thinking about that Danish (Danish?) youtube comedy sketch about the scrolls. It may well lead to new ways to teach literacy. Cole is very interested in some new tools for making nonlinear documentaries that changes the whole way editing can/can’t control the message of a film. It reminds me of that.
      In the Montessori method, children do everything (including washing down tables at 18 months) left to right, top to bottom to get the orientation of written English into their psyches. English will still read and be written left to right, and probably top to bottom, but where the “bottom” is and what “page” means is certainly bound to change. A “page-turner” may still be a book you can’t put down, but “page” and “turn” may become forgotten archaisms in the same way “dial” a phone number is today.

  4. My daughter really isn’t much of an independent reader–left to her own devices, she would never pick up a book most days of the year. (She can’t envision bedtime w/o reading, but that’s relational reading, with us. And we love that. I’m happy to be still reading aloud (or having her read aloud to me).) Reading on an e-device is sometimes a way for her to read on her own, though–partly I think she likes playing with a device, partly she likes that her cousins also have Nooks, and partly I think she likes that the device takes away the physical sense of how much book is left, so she isn’t worrying about how much more there is to read. This isn’t the kind of kid reading I envisioned, but I’m happy to have another way to encourage her to think about reading.

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