Getting Older Kids to Read with Longer Text Book Apps

by Moms With Apps on September 3, 2012

Our guest post is written by Julie Landry Laviolette, CEO/Director of Fun of Story Bayou interactive book apps for kids 8-12. Her app, Brush of Trush, is on sale for Labor Day at $.99 and is available for iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, and Windows phones. “Apps for older kids” is becoming a popular request, so it’s a pleasure to introduce you to a developer who is focused on the 8 to 12 year old market. 

I grew up with my nose in a book, and now, as a mom of a fifth- and seventh-grader, I will do anything to get my kids to read. When my son was in first grade, I led him to the library’s comic book section. As my daughter progressed through elementary school, I introduced her to Junie B. Jones and Judy Blume. Now, I include the iPad as one of our options for reading material.

Longer text book apps – a hybrid of a book and an interactive game – are an emerging trend in the literary landscape. They can be read on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, so anyone with a portable device can carry a library in their pocket. As someone who has always loved to read, I can’t think of a more wonderful thing.

Today kids are digital learners who are comfortable with technology. They are intuitive about gadgets and are fearless in their exploration of them. More parents and educators have access to content, including books, in a digital format.

In June 2011, when my work as a journalist began to dwindle, I started a company, Story Bayou (www.storybayou.com) to create book apps for tweens. My first app, Brush of Truth, was released in February 2012.

The idea behind a full-text book app is to make reading more accessible, in an interactive way that engages the reader. Brush of Truth is a story about two tweens who find an enchanted paintbrush, and it lets kids choose how the story unfolds at critical points in the plot. It has 65 decision points, 20 possible endings, and has the same amount of text as a 125-page book. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at why I did what I did:

Tweens are an underserved market

The mobile app market has exploded since the first 800 apps were introduced in 2008. Today there are more than 500,000 apps available in the iTunes marketplace. Kids’ apps are one of the fastest growing segments.

In a 2011 Federal Trade Commission study of kids’ apps, 90% were targeted to kids ages 6 and younger. That leaves a market opportunity to those willing to take on the tween (roughly ages 8-14) market in the app world. Brush of Truth is geared to kids ages 8-12.

More tweens are getting mobile devices

A 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 66 percent of children ages 8 to 18 owned a mobile phone, up from 39 percent in 2004. There was a noticeable spike in the 11-14 age group. According to Kaiser, ownership increased from 36 percent in 2004 to 69 percent in 2009 — nearly doubling in just five years. I developed Brush of Truth on several platforms, iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows 7 and Kindle Fire, to take advantage of future market growth.

There is a need for longer-text apps

My book app, Brush of Truth, has more than 22,000 words. This is about the size of a 125-page book, the typical size of a beginning chapter book for the third- through sixth-grade reading level. There are not a lot of full-text apps out there, so I wanted to create a reading app that kids could read for pleasure, and educators could use in class. I’ve heard from happy moms whose kids have read Brush of Truth on their smartphones while waiting in the doctor’s office or on long car trips, getting some reading time in on-the-go.

More schools are incorporating touchscreens

The iPad and other touchscreens are becoming more common tools in the classroom. Teachers are getting grants for iPad carts. School systems are adopting digital learning practices and teachers are trying out game-based learning. Brush of Truth has been used in classrooms to foster team-building exercises, as kids team-read the app, and vote on choices. The app has been used to inspire kids to write their own multiple-ending stories, and it has enticed reluctant readers to spend more time with a book, even if that book is encased in a touchscreen, and calls itself an app.

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