Recommended iPad Book Apps for Older & Reluctant Readers Ages 8-12

| November 8, 2011 | 7 Comments
Reluctant Readers

Digital Inspiration for Reluctant Readers

Of all the requests for recommendations I get, the most common seems to be from parents & teachers looking for book apps for children in 4-6+ grades (ages 10-12+) who are struggling with basic reading skills.

“What can you recommend for my students who are in 5th grade but read at a much lower level? They think most picture books are ‘babyish’ so anything that will appeal to them would be much appreciated.” ~ Teacher comment from Facebook

This is one of the comments that stands out as representing the overall tone of these requests. So this list, not really a top 10 but more of a reading list, is my top recommendations for children who are not quite at grade level for reading skill but need books with topics and stories that appeal to their maturity level and interests. These are books with a variety of subjects. Many have the option for narration with highlighting word-for-word. I’ve broken them down into categories instead of a ranked listing, to aid parents & educators as they select book apps for older readers. As I come across new titles, I will add them to this post. If you have a suggestion for this list, please let me know in a comment.

Click on any image to see full review with synopsis, current price & app features.

Engaging titles with word highlighting:

Treasure Kai

Treasure Kai – Designed for Reluctant Readers

Kai is a 10 year old boy with a wild imagination and a love of history and treasure. He lives above his parents’ treasure shop and the illustrations of this store were so detailed that I could almost imagine being able to play a ‘hidden object’ game within the page. Tapping on any one of dozens of items elicits high quality sound effects at every turn in the shop’s shelves. And we haven’t even gotten to the heart of this book – the treasure hunt itself. This digital book has wonderful interactive sounds and lots of things to touch on every page. Read more …

Brave Rooney

Struggling readers can relate to this ‘super’ kid …

Brave Rooney is an ordinary boy in an extraordinary situation. He goes to school in Magesticville, a place where everyone is a super-hero. But Rooney lives on the border with Normalville and is decidely not super at anything. The school even has to hire a school nurse for the first time, just for Rooney. No one had ever gotten sick before he attended. But despite his struggles to fit in, Rooney turns out to have one thing the other ‘super’ kids do not, making him a hero of sorts for a unique kind of bravery. Featuring cute cartoon drawings and a storyline kids will love, this book app hits just the right balance between story and enhancements. Read more …

Goosed Up Rhymes

Reluctant readers will enjoy the humor in these tales …

According to Wiktionary.org and my handy bookmark at Thesaurus.com, to goose-up is “to boost or take steps to make something appear more attractive, to increase or augment.” And Goosed-up Rhymes could not have been more appropriately named. It is an app that is so packed with games, tappable interactivity and hidden surprises that I emailed the developer to be sure I hadn’t inadvertently missed something. I usually spend a few hours with an app, but this one took twice the normal time to review, simply because it has more than twice the content of a typical book app. The book is broken into 8 ‘pages’ with each nursery rhyme presented as a full multi-media event. Read more …

For engagement based on structure of book or topic:

Be Confident in Who You Are: A Middle School Confidential Graphic Novel

Tweens will relate to the teens in this graphic novel …

This book app is developmentally perfect for tweens and teens. The print versions of this series were published recently, 2008-2010. I only wish Annie Fox had written these fabulous books when I was a middle school counselor earlier in the decade. The series is just that exceptional. It’s fun, hip and something youth will relate to. It’s also packed with great stories that will guide them to feel better about themselves, think more deeply about problems and understand how to be a friend not only to others but to themselves. As a digital book this one is well made, nicely augmented with music and hits just the right note for this age group with its graphic novel style. Read more …

 

Nosy Crow's Cinderella App

A cinderella story for readers of all ages, very interactive. Also see 3 Pigs.

Cinderella, from Nosy Crow, captivates readers of all ages and brings even more interactivity to the classic tale of a girl, her fairy godmother & a mysterious glass slipper. You can help Cinderella tidy the house, dress the mean step-sisters for the ball, and even pick the pumpkin to be turned into a carriage. Like their previous app, Nosy Crow has not forgotten a single detail in this delightful title, featuring adorable child actors for the voices of all the characters. You can scroll to see more of each page, with fun activities that include hunting for a cute little bird that hides in every scene. Read more …

Bobo Explores Light Book App

Interactive exploration of science, more advanced reading level.

Bobo is a cute little robot that guides readers 6+ through a fascinating series of over 100 pages of facts, videos, physics demonstrations and interactive goodies relating to the science and history of the study of light. The app is thorough, educationally sound and deeply engaging. It is a non-fiction title with over 20 topic pages that open up three additional windows with so much content it will take you well over an hour to get through it all … but you won’t notice the time because this is such an absorbing book. The beauty of this app is that it can be used in so many ways. Read more …

Bartleby's Book of Buttons - The Button at the Bottom of the Sea

Bartleby mixes interactive games with reading … Also see Vol. 1

Bartleby is back! My little one loved Vol. 1: The Faraway Island and was very excited to explore this new title. In the sequel, we find our button-obsessed protagonist heading out on a quest for a button at the bottom of the sea. Bartleby’s lady-friend Sally helps him on his quest, which involves traveling in a submarine to the ocean floor. With light animation and ingenious interactivity, Bartleby, is a book-game hybrid series that children (and many adults) will find deeply entertaining. The reader needs to find the proper combination of actions on each page to allow the story to continue. Read more …

For basic emphasis on early literacy skills with topics of interest to older readers:

The Humboldt Penguin

Smithsonian collection books explore the natural world & ancient creatures. See whole series …

Penguin’s Family – The Story of the Humboldt Penguin is a gorgeously illustrated title in Oceanhouse Media’s Smithsonian Collection - a series based on popular non-fiction print titles about the natural world. The print version of this title was released in 2004 along with an audio CD. As an OM book this title sparkles, giving enormous value over its print counterpart, including narrated text that highlights as read. This book series fills a great need for digital book apps with non-fiction educational content. Read more …

The Strange & Wonderful World of Ants

Adjustable reading levels perfect for struggling readers …

 The Strange & Wonderful World of Ants is one of very few titles given 5 stars on this site. And that was before this substantial update. The book is now truly phenomenal for an educational ebook. It is, in my opinion, one of the best examples for developers who would like to create innovative non-fiction ebook apps. This update includes narration for the easiest reading level, making this a title that is versatile enough for even young pre-readers while still being engaging for older readers and even adults. Unless you are an entomologist, you will likely learn something new about ants while reading this book. Read more …

Dr. Seuss - Oh, The Thinks You Can Think

Many Seuss titles will appeal to older readers …

Oh, The Thinks You Can Think! is a wonderful Seuss tribute to the endless possibilities of our imaginations. It was first published in print in 1975 and is filled with make-believe places, animals and past-times, all rhyming, of course. As a digital offering, this one is refreshing, with the addition of meaningful interactivity and light animation to enhance the storyline. Each page has dozens of question marks that invite little fingers to tap. After tapping the “?” the picture changes, moving the storyline along in a delightful way that reinforces reading comprehension. Read more …

iStoryTime Transmedia Titles – Featuring word-for-word highlighting & longer narratives based on popular movies & tv shows:

Shrek Forever After

Shrek Forever After with seek-and-find game throughout story …

This app version of the beloved movie, “Shrek Forever After,” is a visually beautiful book on the iPad.  It has still images of all the major plot points from the movie while doing a nice retelling of Shrek’s run-in with Rumpelstiltskin.  The story has a nice moral, too, since in the end Shrek learns to appreciate what he has.  For fans of the movie, this iPad book version will also be a fun trip through all their favorite scenes. This book is not, however, animated in any way, which can be particularly helpful in a book app for reluctant, older readers. Read more … 

How to Train Your Dragon

Stunning images will captivate reluctant readers …

This app version of the beloved movie, “How to Train Your Dragon,” is a visually beautiful book on the iPad.  It captures all the major plot points from the movie while doing a nice retelling of the touching story of a brainy boy and his dragon.  For fans of the movie, this iPad book version will be a fun trip through all their favorite scenes. This book is not, however, animated or interactive, which can be a disappointment to kids who are expecting an experience more animated, like many other movie-book apps. This simple, narrated tale set against eye-popping movie graphics, will be a hit with kids who love the movie. Read more … 

Ben 10 Triple Threat - Children's Book

Ben 10 comic book style apps will appeal to older readers …

This title is based on the Cartoon Network animated series “Ben 10″ that began in 2005.  It is about “Ben Tennyson, who finds a device called the Omnitrix, which allows him to transform into 10 different alien heroes,” according to the extensive fan site set up for all things “Ben 10″. Originally, Ben was a pre-teen, but in the part of the series that “Triple Threat” happens, Ben is a teenager.  This iPad book is based on a comic book that was published in 2010, following 16 year old Ben & his friends. Read more …

Narrated titles with more advanced reading level:

Human Body Detectives - Battle with the Bugs

Human Body Detectives educate & captivate young readers …

“Battle with the Bugs” is from the Human Body Detectives (HBD) series, created by Heather Manley, a Naturopath and mom. She designed this series to educate kids in a fun way about their bodies. In the first story, “The Lucky Escape”, two sisters end up taking a detailed trip down the digestive system to find out what’s wrong with their baby brother. In this title, the girls do their detective work inside the body of their little cousin, whose immune system is working hard to battle a virus. The girls take their older cousin on their journey, introducing him to their adventures inside an immune system battle.  Read more …

Mr. Wolf and the Ginger Cupcakes - kids storybook

Great for encouraging writing too … modern remake of classic tale.

‘Red Hood’ is a little girl who is on her way to Grandma’s in Mr. Wolf and the Ginger Cupcakes. The story follows the initial plot of the familiar story of Little Red Riding Hood. The wolf even seems rather mischievous. But the similarities to the familiar, and rather gruesome folktale, end there. The wolf in this story is a vegetarian and distracts Grandma with a free bingo ticket so he can challenge the little girl to a chess match. Just as Mr. Wolf wins at chess, a passing entomologist bursts in to discover the pair. The scientist and the reader then simultaneously discover that nothing scarier than ginger crumbs is going on. Read more …

Maid Marian Muffins iPad App

A funny tale that reminds readers to keep trying …

“Maid Marian Muffins” was the first book in a while to make my son laugh out loud. It quickly became a favorite ebook and regular feature at bedtime in our house. The book stars a quirky Brooklynite with a hankering for an old-fashioned blueberry muffin done right. She and her faithful canine, Marvin, search far and wide for the perfect baked goods in Brooklyn. Finding no muffin tasty enough to satisfy her craving, Marian embarks on a hilarious adventure to make her very own culinary masterpieces. The final recipe that results is so sublime that Marian & Marvin decide to make a business out of delivering her muffins all over town. Read more …

The Little Mermaid - Auryn

More advanced reading level with captivating interactivity ..

This digital book version of The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson is based on the well-crafted translation by Anthea Bell with the breath-taking and ethereal illustrations of Lisbeth Zwerger. Anderson originally wrote the tale as a ballet in 1837. This picture book version was published in 1984 to rave reviews. It follows the original tale very closely, with no happy ending. The storytelling makes up for any disappointment, though. This digital presentation takes an otherwise gorgeous print book and brings it to life. The story is told both underwater and above on land, with pages of the former that look and feel like they are actually submerged in the sea. The effect is magical, with a tiny school of fish on many pages that the reader can interact with playfully. Read more …

Heidi Part I for iPad

Heidi in three parts … rewritten with relatively easy reading leve

Heidi Part I: On the Alp is a digital retelling of the classic Heidi story. In the first app, one of three (all now available through iTunes), Heidi is brought at the age of six to stay with her reclusive grandfather high in the Alps. She lives with him long enough to soften the old man, becoming quite close to him and Peter, the goat-herd. At the end of this book, we are left wondering, “What will happen to Heidi now that her aunt has come back to get her?” As a digital book, this title is very solidly made, with easy ‘swipe’ style page turning, nice sound-quality and simple settings for reading with or without narration. Read more …

For more advanced readers, not narrated but with some interactivity to maintain engagement:

Oz Book for iPad

Unique presentation of classic tale will engage older readers …

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been made over in app form hundreds of times (from a quick review of the app store). What OzBook has to offer is a nice abridgment of the original Frank Baum classic with charming enhancements that draw children into the story. You’ll find all the plot points nicely highlighted over 60 pages. The interactive & animated elements are so ‘touchable’ that you may even have to pause the reading because little hands are in the way of the text. This title is not narrated, although it does come with English, Lithuanian, German & Russian text all in one app. The app has great sound effects and music, along with a nice page guide. Read more …

 

 

Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book

Engaging interactivity to encourage reluctant readers to love books ..

Three Little Pigs and the Secrets of a Popup Book is a phenomenal offering in digital form.  On the iPad, in particular, it is a unique book offering in a rather crowded marketplace.  If it hasn’t been on your radar before, it certainly should be.  I am delighted to finally have a version of the three little pigs than I can whole-heartedly recommend! And while this version does have a very ‘unsoftened’ ending (not only do two of the pigs get eaten, but the wolf is also boiled alive), my four year old did not find this tale scary. I think for fairy tales about personified animals, you can get away with a lot more of the original story, especially if the grizzly elements are not the focus of the illustrations. Read more …

 

 

The Velveteen Rabbit HD - XIMAD

Engaging interactive titles like this by XIMAD are often free (with ads).

This is a beautifully illustrated and enhanced ebook based on the classic story by Margery Williams. The illustrations are rich and evocative of a bygone era. There are wonderful objects on every page that respond to the motion of the iPad or the flick of a finger. This interactivity is particularly nice in such a long book, giving my preschooler a way to be involved as I read it aloud. In the past I haven’t been able to get him to sit still for me to read our print version of this book, which was unfortunate since The Velveteen Rabbit is one of my personal favorites. The book is also accompanied by wonderful background music, a classical music track on a very long loop. This is a nice addition, especially since this book lacks narration. Read more …

 

Screen Shot of The Jungle Book, adapted for the iPad

Two books in one based on the original novel.

This is an exceptional production of the original version of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, including a picture book version that is abbreviated to just 30 pages. This app also includes the full novel (over 200 pages) although this version is not narrated. This title was written in the late 1800′s and has not been interpreted in this version to be more accessible to a modern audience, so the language will be especially challenging for young readers under the age of 10. It is, however, a great resource for classroom use, especially with the word-by-word narration of the shorter version of this classic story. Read more …

 

 

Additional Recommendations

Brush of Truth from StoryBayou.com

With Brush of Truth, you choose how the action unfolds in this interactive book app for kids 8-12. Geared to third- through sixth-graders, Brush of Truth, told in “your” voice, has 65 decision points and 20 possible endings. Great for tweens …

Brush of Truth – How it Works (YouTube)

 

 

Cool to be Clever

Discover the genius and anti-bullying message of Edson Hendricks

It’s Cool to Be Clever (for iPad) – FREE

Based on the print title, published in 2011, this book app is an inspirational read for kids ages 8 and up. It is absolutely packed with top notch educational content, presented in an intuitive app that is polished and engaging. Text can be read or listened to, although the reading level is roughly for ages 8-12+. The print title retails for nearly $20, so this app is also an exceptional value. Older readers, including adults, will enjoy the history, science and inspirational messages found in this digital book.

from Mary Ann Scheuer, Elementary School Librarian, from her blog, Great Kid Books:

Nancy Drew Mysteries for iPad - Shadow Ranch

A mix of mini-game mysteries and choose-your-own-adventure …

From the review:

“This is an interesting example of taking a full novel and adding interactive features to pull readers along. While I found the experience not as satisfying as a traditional story, it hooked several 4th and 5th graders, even those who don’t traditionally like reading mysteries.” Read more …

 

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Category: All About Apps, iPads in Education, Top 10 Lists

About the Author ()

Carisa Kluver is the the editor of Digital-Storytime.com, an iPad children's book review site. She has a BA in Anthropology from UC Berkeley and an MSW from the University of Washington. Before starting this project, she was a school counselor, health educator and researcher in child & maternal health.

Comments (7)

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  1. Thanks for these recommendations. They are great! I’m wondering what you think about using ePub files in iBooks with the Voice Over setting turned on as another method to narrate more complex texts for older students. It’s not an “app” so to speak, but another option to try with struggling readers.

    • Yes, Jeremy … using iBooks with voice over would be another great idea for older students and give you flexibility to use your own content through .pdf formats imported into iBooks.

  2. iOS teacher says:

    I’ve also used Pages to create ePub books and you can drop recordings into the book so that students can choose whether to listen to the text being read to them or not. I like that the voice is not the ‘computer’ voice but the teacher’s – or even a classmate’s. Of course, you still don’t get the text being highlighted as it’s being read :-(

  3. I bought Mystery Ranch for my 8-year-old and she gobbled it up in 3 days! Thanks for sharing Mary Ann’s recommendation with me!

  4. This is a great list! Please consider my books, too. $.99 ebooks written by a newspaper book columnist and mom of four. http://www.anitalaydonmiller.com/buy-my-99-books.html

  5. Dario Cavada says:

    Thanks for the long list of iPad Book Apps!
    We too have written a story for iPad (see Elisha and the Creature with the Blue Fur http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/eliseo-creature-blue-fur/id460359248).
    We’ll check your recommendations for inspiration for our new book “Eliseo and Dark Mask”.

  6. Rich says:

    We have integrated a number of different methods over the past few years for my son who is now 11 and in the sixth grade. To help with reading grade level fiction and assist on the phonics, he uses Read-to-Go on an iPod Touch or iPad. He takes Accelerated Reader test at school for each book. This help us to know his comprehension is good. For fiction books, he reads them the old fashion way along with using Dragon Naturally Speaking to take notes at the end of sections and/or chapters so he can reread or listen to his note later. Additionally, he sees a tutor once week for assistance with reading and writing skills.

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