Buyer's Guide to Book Apps


What is a book app?

A book app is like a virtual library on your device. Typically, you'll pay a subscription, and then your child will have access to hundreds of books and can browse and read as many of them as they choose. Some book apps add extra features like comprehension quizzes, augmented reality, and statistics to help you monitor how much reading your kids have done.

Quantity is a quality — Research has shown that kids read more when they choose their reading material. You might know a book your child will love, but they're more likely to engage with it if they choose it from a broad selection.

With physical books, kids only get to choose at a library or bookshop. With a book app, they can make a choice every time they are ready to start a new book.

Mental well-being — the greater the choice of books, the more chance your kids have of finding a story that resonates with them.

Kids don't always know where to begin when there is a problem. If you see a problem, for example, bullying or difficulty making friends, choosing a book or story that covers the issue is an excellent way to open a conversation.

Even if you don't know the problem, you can use a story to talk generally about issues and the different ways of approaching them.

You might not always make a breakthrough when you read with your kids, but the quality time you spend together positively impacts mood and mental well-being. It reinforces that you are there to help, and the stories might have a more profound impact than you realise.

Bridging schools — changing from one school to another, such as primary to secondary or elementary to middle, can be when kids' reading habits change.

Kids might be unable to take a book home for their breaks as they did in previous years. Classrooms tend to focus less on general reading the higher they are in the school system.

Introducing a book app at the end of the final year in a school stage helps to act as a bridge that provides continuity for kids to keep reading. Even as library systems change and reading requirements alter, they'll still have a source of entertaining and educational books.

This buyer's guide to book apps will help you choose the right app for your kids.

We have a Best Book Apps List.

How different can one book app be from another?

A book app is a collection of books within an app. Subscribers can access and read as many of them as they desire. They have many advantages for kids, such as increasing their choices and being easily portable. Frequent reading and well-developed literacy skills are key indicators of each child's likely attainment.

Our Teacher Reviewers have certified many book apps, and they are not all the same. Two five-star book apps can be pretty different from each other. Each will be perfect for different children, depending on their needs.

Which age group does the book app target?

Age does not necessarily reflect each child's reading ability. If your child's reading has been delayed, you have to be careful to choose books carefully. Giving older children stories meant for much younger children can make them feel humiliated and emphasise their lack of progress.

Book apps offer a broad selection of story types, but you need one that has books to match your child's current reading level with topics to match their age.

What reading levels does the book app target?

Some book apps follow a scheme where books are chosen or created to meet different levels of reading ability.

You might want to choose an app to match your child's scheme at school or use a separate method to provide additional support. You should check with your child's teacher which they think would be most helpful.

Are the books in the book app custom-written, available elsewhere or a mix?

Some book apps produce titles only available within that app, while others include books you can find in bookshops and libraries. Neither approach is wrong; a mix of the two is common.

The advantage of custom titles is that kids won't have read them elsewhere, and they may be written to meet specific criteria such as a targeted reading level. Books written for general publication might appeal to kids more as they've heard of them or seen them on bookshelves.

Does the book app contain enhancements?

Animations, page turn effects, augmented reality and more all feature in different book apps to make them more appealing. These can help engage kids who wouldn't ordinarily open a book, but they can distract others. Kids must be encouraged to read the books and enjoy the interactive components.

Some kids might be unable to concentrate on the text when there are animations. Graphical flourishes might not appeal to some kids who enjoy reading physical books.

Does the book app test kids?

Some book apps ask kids to answer a comprehension quiz at the end of each book. Some kids enjoy this, and it can be a helpful way of checking that kids understand the book they are reading. However, testing can harm the link between reading and pleasure we're trying to build.

Does the book app record usage?

If your child is a reluctant reader, you might choose an app that records how many books they have read, which ones, and how long they spent with them. If your child is not using the app, you can re-assess its suitability or how to engage your child with its books.

Use the Parent App Library search tools to find book apps assessed for quality by our expert reviewers. Read the reviews to see which ones have the features that will best match your kids' needs.

View our Best Book Apps List.

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