Best Digital Picture Books
By Renée Jordan, M.A.
These aren’t your ordinary picture books. Today’s digital-native children are engaging with reading in an novel way as their fingers swipe tablet screens to reach the next page. Digitized stories come alive with graphic design and moving imagery. Many of today’s digital story books have built in audio features, where the story is read aloud to children, granting them autonomy in the early reading process. But there is more, now that the reading process is augmented with sounds effects, pop-ups, music, puzzles and matching games. These engrossing add-ons draw the reader deeper into the story, resulting in enhanced comprehension of the plot line. Below I have chronicled some of the richest digital story books available to today’s twenty-first century readers.
Classics Tales Gone Digital
OceanHouse Media has made over 50 Dr. Seuss titles available in digital form, including classics like the How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Hop on Pop. They also have digitized classics series such as the Little Critter Books and the Bernstein Bears. These technological variations allow children to explore pictures, learn new vocabulary, and personalize each story with their own narration. The newest development by OceanHouse is their Read&Learn versions of some tales, such as The Cat in the Hat. In these renditions of the text, there are a variety of learning actives embedded into each tale. For example, “sound starters” emphasize first letters in words, "rhyme time" allows students to rhyme words by sound, "super speller" helps build word formation skills and "what's what" helps students grasp story content in a more meaningful manner.
Fairytales are also being retold and restructured in the digital space by StarTale. By creating multi-sensory picture books, StarTale aims to provide children a way to “read and hear words, appreciate artwork, touch pages, learn languages and experience the world”. NosyCrow also revisited classic tales like Jack and the Bean Stalk, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White. As did Timbuktu Labs with their animated storybook adventures of The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, and The Tallow Candle. Each tale by Timbuktu Labs includes original illustrations and full orchestral excerpts from the theatrical renderings of each tale.
Although many companies are digitizing tried and true narratives, many authors are starting out in the digital arena. Digital book publishers like Digitalleaf are striving to create digital stories with the intention to “light up children’s lives, [and] stimulate them to laugh, to think and to grow.” Whereas Wee Society has begun creating beautiful, minimal story books to teach students about diversity as well as the alphabet. Polk Street Press is also developing story time apps, including one of my all time favorite digital titles, Splatter & Spark.
The advent of digital reading content has also afforded authors the ability to self-publish their content. For example, author, Mariya Stavinskaya, created her first beautifully illustrated digital picture book that is sure to captivate young audiences. In similar fashion, author Alexey Politov created and published Dragon and Wolf. So, although I don’t foresee paper books being rendered obsolete, twenty-first century publishing and reading is changing rapidly. When it comes to cultivating the love of reading in young children digital story books are a great addition to any school or home library.