Books and reading have a significant impact on the cognitive, emotional, and language development of all children. Children love to listen to stories, often even the same one over and over again. They also love to flip through the pages of a book, looking at pictures and retell or imagine the stories for themselves. A love for books and the desire to curl up on the couch and dive into the imaginary world of a good story are common to both young and old alike.
The tablet is a great platform for reading and listening to stories and for people with disabilities the tablet makes the wonderful world of books accessible. Accommodations like touching the screen rather than turning a page or listening to the story rather than reading it can make a significant difference for people with various challenges and can allow them to enjoy books like their peers. Think, for example, about a child having difficulty learning to read. In addition to the difficulty learning to read, he may also miss out on the rich language and emotional content that others his age will be exposed to and internalize. Audio book apps provide the user with the opportunity to listen to a book, something that can bridge that gap and expose that child to the characters and language that he would otherwise be missing. People with visual impairment can also benefit from audio book apps if the app is made accessible to them and works with the Voice Over features of the device. Audio books can also be helpful for new immigrants, a way for them to become familiar with the local culture and be exposed to a richer language and its pronounciation.
Of course for younger children, reading together with their parents or other significant adults has incredible value and developmental benefits, but many children also like to sit by themselves with a book. They like to sit in the kindergarten reading corner or pull a book from their shelf in their room and flip through the pages, looking at pictures. For children and youth with physical disabilities, this scenario may not occur. They may have difficulty accessing the bookshelf or even turning the pages on their own. The tablet allows these children to access their “bookshelf” and choose their own book with just the touch of a finger.
Digital book apps come in various forms. Those that are made for young children often look like the original storybook with text and pictures and have the option to have the text read aloud. There are also many original storybook apps available. Storybook apps are usually interactive, meaning touching various elements of the illustrations causes different things to happen on the screen. For example when the child touches the cow he may hear the cow moo, or if he touches the boy holding the balloons, the balloons may float away. Digital books for youth and adults come in two forms: e-books and audio books. In Hebrew, e-books provide the text and any illustrations as seen in the printed book. Audiobook apps provide the audio files only. We would love to see an app or option that allows a combination of the two, audio and printed word.
And of course, when talking about stories, we should always remember that children love to make up their own stories, or share experiences. Writing stories together can be a great way to do that. There are a number of great story making apps available on the App Store, including Tiny Tap and Book Creator.
Hebrew book apps (you will need to search the App Store using the Hebrew titles)
עברית לילדים (a library of children’s stories) App Store | Google Play
Classic children’s stories in an interactive format. Interactive activities are incorporated throughout the story. In all the stories words are highlighted as they are read, so children are encouraged to follow along and their attention is also drawn to the printed word as they are hearing it. From the main menu of each story you can choose between listening to the story or reading it independently. The child turns pages by touching the arrow or character in the bottom corner. Some stories also have an automatic option. Each story is purchased as a separate app.
סיפורי מדע לילדים (science stories for children) App Store
A collection of original science stories. Each story can be listened to in either English, Hebrew, or Russian. The app has a number of settings options including turn pages automatically, listen to the story, and more.
Digital or e-book apps
עברית (e-book library) App Store | Google Play
A library with a wide variety of books for youth and adults. Includes a category for beginning readers whose books include vowels and illustrations. Settings include letter size and background color (black/white). Turning pages is by a swipe gesture or by touching the side of the screen in the direction you want to go (forward or back).
ספרים קוליים Ynet App Store | Google Play
An audiobook library with a collection of books for all ages. We would love to see the app provide a printed version of the book and/or pictures to go along with the audio.
אייקאסט ספרים מוקלטים (iCast recorded books) App Store | Google Play
An audiobook library. They are currently planning an updated version for iOS and Android that will be accessible for people with visual impairments.
ספרי שמע (a website of audiobooks to download for iPad)
A website providing audiobooks for iPad. Collection includes books for youth and adults, and books and Russian and English.