Common Sense Media, the organization that tests and rates every type of media your child might encounter, has published their latest “Best Book Apps for Kids.” The apps are rated by age group, starting with toddlers and moving up to young teens.
CSM’s standard ratings include ease of use; amounts of violence, sex or objectionable language; the amount of consumerism in the app; whether or not there is drinking, drugs or smoking; and privacy controls and issues.
So what are the best interactive book apps for your kids? An abbreviated list follows. For a more detailed review, go to CommonSenseMedia.org.
1) Night Night HD. An interactive “going to sleep” app that allows your toddler to play with farm animals. There’s very little reading, but lots of touching. And when your child turns off the light switch, the lights stay out. It’s bedtime.
2) Peek-a-Zoo by Duck Duck Moose. An app game that asks children to look at different groups of cartoon animal characters and distinguish which ones are exhibiting a specific trait or behavior (“Who is crying?” “Who is surprised?” “Who is angry?”).
3) Another Monster at the End of This Book. It’s a sequel to the Sesame Street classic, The Monster at the End of This Book, and Common Sense Media reviewers like it a lot. In this book, Grover begs readers NOT to turn the page so they can avoid the monster at the end – who turns out to be Elmo.
4) The Cat in the Hat. CSM raters think this is a perfect adaptation, and is very faithful to the original picture book. “This story is such a delight to read with its great use of language, funny graphics, and the Cat’s hilarious over-the-top antics.”
5) Little Bella’s: I Close My Eyes. CSM says this is perfect for pre-readers, though your toddler might be a bit bored. The book is made up of 12 animated shorts about a girl who pretends she can fly, climb huge trees and jump like a frog.
6) Popout! The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The CSM reviewer loved the popout elements, with their detailed use of sound and movement. The popouts alone with enthrall littler kids, while there’s plenty to read for younger learners. They can even tap on a word if they get stuck.
7) Speech with Milo: Interactive Storybook. Developed by a speech therapist, this app gives kids the option of reading the story that’s given or writing one or two or three of their own. It’s great for teaching kids how stories are put together.
8) Bartleby’s Book of Buttons Vol. 1: The Far Away Island. CSM says this is an incredibly imaginative and fun interactive storybook about a man who collects buttons. The catch? “Any time he finds himself in need, he tries pressing some of those buttons to see how they will affect his situation.” When kids press the buttons, it affects where the story will go.
9) Don’t Let The Pigeon Run This App! This is an interactive spin-off of Mo Willems’ Pigeon book series. CSM says kids can make their own stories – either by picking from multiple-choice options or making up their own story. Your child’s voice will be recorded and become part of the story they make up.
10) The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. The CSM reviewer loves this book, calling it “brilliant” and “mind-blowing. It’s one of those apps that shows just how much creativity and added entertainment value can be put into an interactive book app.” The story is about a man who is swept away by a tornado (which might disturb younger kids) and then becomes a sort of librarian in a world of living books.
11) The Magic School Bus: Oceans. This “highly interactive storybook” brings to life the very popular children’s series and, like it’s paper cousin, is chock full of educational information sprinkling amidst a fantastical tale of adventure and a teacher who is just a little off. Every page has interactive elements that help kids learn about the ocean.
12) Bobo Explores Light. We science geeks at Chicago Parent like this one, which is, according to CSM, “an interactive science textbook.” Kids can learn about reflection, refraction, lasers, colors and much more. The reading level is second grade, but the information might contain things parents missed when they were in school.
13) The Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book. This book is a great, interactive telling of the children’s classic, and accurately reflects real world physics. But what the CSM reviewers really like is the x-ray mode, which allows children to see how paper pop-up books are really made.
14) Weird But True. This app from the National Geographic book has 300 fun facts, about which it allows kids to rate and animate, and even email to friends. But, according to the CSM reviewer, “This app does not contain sources for the facts or explanations of why or how they’re true, which not only could help kids learn more about the facts, but also helps them learn to evaluate seemingly factual statements in our digital age.”
15) Shadow Ranch HD. This is a Nancy Drew book that allows the reader to choose which clues Nancy will chase. The book also has puzzles, word games and mini-mysteries that are unlocked by the direction the reader takes, so that the story seemingly never ends.
16) Ultimate Dinopedia: The Most Complete Dinosaur Reference Ever. Your dinosaur lover will be ecstatic about this book, with over 300 dinos, and in-depth discussion of 75 more popular ones (like T-Rex). Kids can learn about the dino family tree and take interactive quizes. However, CSM wants that it is violent. Dinosaurs didn’t always get along, and their negotiation skills were not that advanced.
17) Be Confident in Who You Are: A Middle School Confidential Graphic Novel. This is about a group of kids who help bolster one another’s self-esteem. The bullies are not always seen; the group reacts just as much to the signals about height and weight and athleticism that they get from popular culture as they do to the mean kids at school. Ultimately, it’s a book about sticking together and being confident.
18) 3D Bookshelf: Classic Literature Collection. This compilation contains 49 classic books, including “A Christmas Carol,” “Tom Sawyer,” “Jane Eyre,” and “A Tale of Two Cities,” among others. It’s a really nice piece for any kid who loves to read – and a few adults, too.
19) Solar System for iPad. Zoom around the moons of Jupiter in this interactive look at our solar system. Kids can learn about the sun, planets, moons, etc. as well as gravity patterns and what makes things orbit. Kids can also see planets up close with some cool video.
20) Dracula: The Official Family Stoker Edition. This is a great compilation of three Dracula stories. Bram Stoker’s original is presented in slightly abridged form. Along with that, there is a full length feature of the silent movie Nosferatu, and Orson Welles’ famous radio play of Dracula. Be warned, though, this is a violent and bloody story, and the three different media in which it is presented don’t pull punches.