“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
– Groucho Marx
We love books. We love the feel, the smell, the sound of the gentle crack of the binding as we open a new book for the first time. Printed books have been treasured and cherished for hundreds of years, and they work just fine. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”… does the simple, straight forward, classic printed book really need updating and improvements?
More and more, literature is being consumed on electronic devices like the Kindle, iPhones, and the soon-to-be-released iPad. How do we, as readers, authors and publishers preserve a love for reading and literature, and encourage more reading, engagement, and exposure to books in the face of these developments?
Kids grow up surrounded by digital media and technology. From a young age, kids are very curious about electronic gadgets. Why not capitalize on that fascination to grab their initial interest? Whether we’re talking print or digital books, reading is an active mental process: something to encourage at every opportunity.
I am, have always been, and expect that I always will be a huge fan of books. I think we are a long way off from digital books actually replacing print books, but I do believe that digital books will become more and more visible and popular as the tech savvy generations accept them as obvious options at home, in schools, libraries, in businesses and on the go. I believe it is important to make quality literature available on electronic devices because the fact is that they will find their way into kids’ hands.
What are some considerations in producing kids’ books for mobile devices? Because of the crucial marriage of text and illustrations in children’s books, the artistic rendering of a book in mobile format is particularly important.
Fidelity to original print version: PicPocket Books places a priority on fidelity to the original picture book. The beauty of many classic and contemporary picture books lies in their simplicity.
Interactivity: PicPocket Books has added some interactive audio hot spots to selected PicPocket Book titles like Oh, Crumps, Peterkin Meets a Star, Monster Trucks, Tractors, Rescue Vehicles, and Round Is A Mooncake.
Animations: The animations in PicPocket Books are subtle, like snow falling or stars twinkling. The intent is to encourage curiosity by adding elements of interactive discovery to some books. We are consciously NOT creating video games, but hope that PicPocket Books can offer a gentle alternative to games for parents who want to offer their children mobile digital books.
Reading a story book on a screen is a very different experience from playing a repetitive video game on the same screen. It has the same educational, mind-opening beneﬁts as reading a traditional print book: it increases vocabulary, improves concentration and focus, and expands horizons. Reading helps children become engaged, rather than passive learners because books demand that kids to use their imagination to paint living mental pictures, rather than having images passively communicated to them through the picture on a television screen.
The technologies that are new to us are very intuitive to kids and will unquestioningly be a signiﬁcant part of their lives for years to come. It’s important to introduce our children to quality and age-appropriate content on the screen, whether we’re talking mobile digital technology, desktop computers or other media. Above all, digital books should not be viewed as a replacement for the valuable time parents can spend reading to their children, but as educational and culturally valuable alternatives to video games or movies, especially for families on-the-go.
Chinese New Year is celebrated in late January or February, usually on the second full moon after the winter solstice. This year, the Chinese New Year falls on February 14, 2010. The tradition has its roots in the story of the mythological beast Nien, which came on the first day of the New Year to devour crops, livestock and even villagers, especially children. One time, people noticed that the Nien was sacred away by a child wearing red. By this, they understood that the Nien was afraid of the color red. From then on, the people would hang red lanterns and scrolls in the streets and shoot off firecrackers to scare the Nien away. Eventually, the Nien was captured by a monk and became his mount.
Round is A Mooncake, A Book of Shapes, by Roseanne Thong and illustrated by Grace Lin, is a delightful journey through the neighborhood of a young Chinese American girl. A mixture of traditional Chinese and universal objects define her environment.
What better way to welcome the New Year than by honoring the traditional while embracing the new? What traditional cultures and objects have a place in your life?
In his article “How the e-Grinch Stole the Book,” Jason Boog asks “When is an eBook not a book?”
Are digitally enhanced e-books books or games? It depends on the individual application and how faithful the app stays to the original work of the book. Some apps are games that are based on characters from a book, but have nothing to do with the original book or with reading. Reading a story book on a screen is a very different experience from playing a repetitive video game on the same screen. Reading an e-book has the same educational, mind-opening benefits as reading a traditional print book: it increases vocabulary, improves concentration and focus, and expands horizons.
PicPocket Books has a growing list of children’s picture book titles that are very faithful to the original published books that are available on iTunes: full color illustrations, full text, plus and audio track and other options, and you can take it anywhere!
Have you ever wondered how our brains deal with digital reading?
Think about it: for years, centuries, we humans have been reading primarily from paper. Now, reading from a screen is becoming as popular, if not more popular, than reading print! Many of us read the news, magazines, blogs, and of course our mail on our computers or mobile devices. E-Books are becoming widely available too.
How do our brains handle this new medium? The New York Times Opinion article Does the Brain like E-Books? has a couple of explanations. In the article, experts address such issues as the balance between focal and peripheral attention (which, incidentally, is disrupted in reading whether from a screen or from traditional print). Do you think people read faster on screen or paper? How is comprehension affected?
Jonah Lehrer, in his article, Reading, E-Books and the Brain, reminds us that the brain is extremely adaptable and that “we excel at developing new habits.” He speculates that “before long, digital ink will feel just as easy as actual ink.”
Check it out! It’s pretty interesting to think about reading from the perspective of your brain.
1) Read aloud to your children every day.
2) Introduce children to books that are a bit above their reading level.
Challenge your children with bigger themes and topics. Introduce them to educational books like Wordly Wise 3000 that contain riddles, crossword puzzles, etc. to enhance their vocabulary skills.
3) Encourage your children to read – to you, a sibling, the family pet, even a stuffed animal!
It is great practice for children learning to read. Often they feel more comfortable reading a story they’ve heard a few times before. Help them with difficult words if they ask, or just let them puzzle it out! It is also great practice for children who can’t read yet. Making up their own stories to go along with pictures is a fun and imaginative exercise.
4) Allow your children to interrupt the story.
If they question or comment, that’s great! Children make connections constantly. Defining new words and explaining illustrations helps children make sense of the word around them. However, constant interruptions can upset the flow of the story. Maybe ask your child save all questions for the end of each page.
5) Give children time to look at the pictures.
You may be impatient to get on with the story, but your child isn’t! Let them take as long as they want to look at pictures and figure them out. Visuals play a huge role in helping children learn and understand. Pictures will also show your children different life styles and cultures that s/he may be unfamiliar with.
6) Take children to the library!
As a child, I loved going to the library. I always bee-lined for the children’s corner and chose new books based on pretty pictures and colors. Set up library trips where a few hours can be spent browsing the shelves or just sitting on cushions, looking at new stories.
7) Choose books that you want to read.
Often children want to hear the same stories over and over, or are hooked on one series in particular (I always loved The Magic Schoolbus). Don’t feel bad suggesting different titles or picking out books you like at the library and bookstore. It’s great to let children choose, but it’s good to take turns too.
8 ) Choose books that are meaningful.
Let your child know when books are special to you. Your five-year old may not care today, but when s/he is older, remembering that “The Crystal Mountain” was Mom’s favorite book and “Horton Hears a Who” was Uncle’s will mean a lot.
9) Read with your children together, and separately.
It’s great to read to your children together, and to make family time out of reading. It’s also important to read to children separately. Make time for your three year-old, and six year-old. Different books are suitable for different ages, and each child will love to have special time with just you.
10) Take children to reading nights.
If your local library or community center has reading nights for children, try to go! Group reading gives children ground for starting friendships, sharing fun stories, and learning patience and tolerance. Besides, what fun memories!
Maryann Cocca-Leffler Author & Illustrator of WHAT A PEST! shares some thoughts on the new release of her work as a digital picture book for kids on the iPhone:
“I’m very excited that my book WHAT A PEST! will be reaching and teaching the iPhone generation! Who would have thought when I entered the children’s book industry 25 years ago that my books would make their way into the pocket of readers? Sharing books on the iPhone is another way to expose children to books and as an author-illustrator that is my goal! I am thrilled to be part of a very new industry and hope some of my other books are offered in this format.
My book WHAT A PEST! is an early reader about two sisters. The older one thinks the younger one is a pest but in the end they realize how important they are to each other. The story itself is loosely based on personal experiences on many levels. I have a younger sister…and I also have two daughters. Growing up, my sister, Diane, was a pest! She was always hanging around with me and my friends and getting in the way. We also sang together and one time she got the chicken pox before a performance. By blending many ideas and watching my own daughters struggle with sisterhood, I came up with the story WHAT A PEST! I hope you enjoy it!
PS: I knew then, as I know now, that sisters have a special bond. I’m happy to say, my sister and I are best friends!”
What about you? Do you have a sister who is a pest, or your best friend, or both? We’d love to hear your stories!
You can find Maryann at www.maryanncoccaleffler.com.
What’s next for children’s literature? We are zooming into the digital age. Technology keeps changing, and print media is quickly going digital. Is anybody out there nervous? Could we lose something with this change?
An article in Publishers Weekly addresses these questions and more: are publishers ready? What about piracy? How will rights be handled? Will libraries become obsolete?
The article summarizes a forum held by the Children’s Book Council on “The Current State of E: Publishing in the Digital Age.” One panelist states, “E-books add a fantastic functionality to what a book is. Adding interactivity to that experience is also very interesting. And thinking about ways they can be fun [is important], because it’s for children.”
There’s a lot of potential! What do you think?