Reading can be difficult. Language comprehension, the ability to recognize words, critical thinking, and a vivid imagination are just a few of the skills you need to truly enjoy reading.
If kids lack any of those skills, they can end up feeling negatively toward the whole reading experience.
But reading is a critical part of child development. It increases language skill, exposes kids to new ideas, and fosters creative, imaginitive personalities. Put simply, in order to function to the best of their ability, kids have to read.
Thanks to new technology and savvy creators, books now come in forms beyond paper and ink. Tablets, phones, and other devices with touchscreens explore the boundaries of the reading experience. When text is combined with elements of film and video games, reading can be a much more interactive and engaging experience.
These new books go by many names—interactive books, interactive graphic novels, interactive storybooks. But they all fulfill the same goal: to help kids learn to love reading.
For Young Readers
Storybooks may seem rudimentary, but they are a powerful form of literature. Combining simple-to-understand language with images can help kids develop their imaginations. Many different interactive options are available. Here are a few that stand out.
Disney’s Storybook Deluxe apps feature books adapted from Disney films. They give kids the option to follow along or read on their own. Original art, custom animations, and mini-games within the stories add interactivity. Best of all, these books cater to a wide array of ages and abilities.
Scholastic offers apps that particularly cater to younger readers. Clifford the Big Red Dog and Scholastic: First Discovery books are examples. Like Disney’s Storybook Deluxe collection, these books offer mini-games and interactive environments with sound and unique visual design. This helps strengthen reading skills while introducing subjects like dinosaurs, the forest, and the jungle.
Customizabooks has the Blackfish Children’s Book series. These books retell classic fairy tales with a combination of choose-your-own-adventure and hidden-object games. They’re not tailored toward education like Disney’s and Scholastic’s offerings. But they emphasize your ability to shape the story according to the choices you make.
For Older Readers
Hidden objects and animations are great for kids, but they might not entertain pre-teens in quite the same way. Thankfully, there are also many interactive reading options available for the 8- to 13-year-old crowd. These books often include role-playing game elements and new takes on the comic book format.
A word of caution: You’ll want to pay attention to age ratings on these books and apps to ensure the stories align with your family’s views on appropriate content.
Scholastic also has offerings for older readers. Their interactive stories are based on series like The 39 Clues, I Spy, and Infinity Ring. Like the books for younger readers, these all include mini-games and full-length stories tailored for intermediate and advanced readers.
Choice of Games is a development studio that creates choose-your-own-adventure-style books written as full novels with different choices. There’s no turning to specific pages based on the decisions you make. Instead, these apps give you a bit of story, then ask how you’d like to proceed.
The “Choice of” books span many genres, from teenage drama to epic sci-fi and fantasy adventure. Each story offers multiple choices of dialog and actions. Different endings and outcomes encourage more than one read.
Tin Man Games’ various “gamebooks” combine elements of tabletop role-playing games with custom stories. They often let you choose character status and abilities. Like the “Choice Of” books, these books come in many genres, including horror, science fiction, fantasy, and mystery.
Comic books have also been brought into the realm of interactive reading. They often combining basic animations, sound effects, and even voiceover performance to make them into a quasi-film experience. Anomaly Productions’ Shifter is one of these. These books combine the voice talents of a cast led by Wil Wheaton with custom artwork, sound effects, and a guided panel-by-panel view. You get an experience not unlike watching a TV show. Best of all? There’s still reading involved. You can tap on items in some of the frames to learn more about specific people, animals, or items.
The Marvel Now! guided-view comics don’t include sound, but they do weave a seamless, film-like experience. Words, images, and characters are added to panels in a way that makes them feel more alive. These are available through major digital comics retailers like Comixology. They feature stories about many of Marvel’s top and most recognizable heroes.
Madefire is an app storefront that sells “motion books.” These are comics that include sound, guided view, and sometimes choose-your-own-adventure elements. The app also sells comics from the popular comic publishers. Its proprietary motion books include the very best of these interactive elements.