Storytelling on the iPad can take many forms. But no story time is more sacred for most families than the bedtime story. Finding a way to settle down at nighttime can be a struggle for many children, so for generations we have held our babes close, peered at a book together and woven the magic of countless tales in the dim light of bedrooms around the globe.
But what does the digital revolution mean for the bedtime story? Will parents have a stash of print books set aside just for bedtime reading one hundred years (or even one decade) from now? I doubt it … print is expensive and difficult to preserve when you get to the 100-year time frame. Chances are, most of the generations to come will experience at least some percentage of their bedtime stories in a digital format.
And the good news is that the digital book app can provide a satisfying bedtime experience. The jury may still be out about the effect of the back-lit screen on children at bedtime (or the effect of screens overall), but the story apps themselves now come in all varieties, even the ‘settle down and go to sleep’ variety. So … how can you find a good bedtime app? Our criteria for digital bedtime reading in our family includes:
- little or no interactivity and animation
- mellow music/sound effects (if present at all),
- solid storytelling that isn’t scary or overly dramatic,
- not much more than 10 minutes long,
- and no games or extras built into the book’s pages.
- Many books also have specific plots or themes about bedtime.
5 + 5 + 15 = 25
What follows are our top recommendations for reading before bed, organized in 3 lists:
- Top 5 developers of bedtime story apps
- Top 5 interactive/animated bedtime-themed books
- Top 15 best individual bedtime book apps … coming in Part 2 of this post, very soon!
Many of these apps are only available for iOS devices, however, a lot are now also available for the Nook Color, Kindle Fire and Android Market. Links for these versions can be found on the review page of our site, under the ‘other versions’ tab, when available. Click (or tap) on any cover image to see the full review.
Top 5 Developers of Bedtime Book Apps
This first list is the top five developers of bedtime book apps, since these five companies dominate the field. You could easily stock a full library for nighttime reading with any one of these developers by themselves, including a wide range of topics & authors. Because they cover so many titles, none of the apps from these developers are included on our other lists, so please take a look at their fabulous collections.
1. Oceanhouse Media has a stunning collection of top titles perfect for reading to kids at bedtime.
Their omBooks line includes: Dr. Seuss, Five Little Monkeys, The Berenstain Bears, Little Critter, Kidwick Books, Elmer the Elephant, and Tacky the Penguin. These titles have light interactivity but are easy to ‘just read’ or listen to on autoplay.
Oceanhouse Media apps are also perfect for storytime with several children or a group, since they are easier to share. Many are also available for Android, Nook & Kindle.
2. Picpocket Books has literally hundreds of book apps for iPhone and iPad with the vast majority based on popular titles that were recently available only in print.
Enhancements for these titles do vary, but many have little or no interactivity.
Favorites in our house include the following series and author/illustrators: Tractor Mac, Human Body Detectives, Eric & the Enchanted Leaf, Gina Ricci, Jeffrey Stoddard, Brooks Jones, Melissa Northway, and many more!
3. Auryn Apps has a number of great apps for bedtime in the Auracle series, featuring light interactivity and truly great storytelling.
These titles can also be personalized, in many cases with both your own narration and even your own text.
Our family favorites include: Miko (series of eight), Winter Is, The Trees Grin Beside Me, Love You to the Moon and Back, Edsel McFarlan’s New Car, and I, Trixie, Who is Dog, but they have lots more to choose from!
4. iStorytime is a powerhouse in the field of book apps with dozens of great titles, including a lot of great ones for older readers from their Dreamworks collection and some perfect reads for little ones with the Biscuit the Puppy series. Many of their apps are available for Android, Nook & Kindle, too. They often release titles before the movies are even released – an extra special bedtime treat.
Their book template features highlighting text, light interactivity and word reinforcement with touch-to-hear and touch-to-spell.
Books like Hiku are sweet stories perfect for bedtime, too. You’ll find a small “Q” in the corner of books using this format.
Top 5 Interactive Book Apps with Bedtime Themes
Next we have a special top five, just for a few of our favorite interactive story apps with bedtime themes. These are titles that may not be perfect for every child at night-time (parents know which kids I mean), but the sleepy-time themes of these apps can be a treat for both children and parents.
The Going to Bed Book is a perfect bedtime read created by Loud Crow. While it is interactive with subtle ‘pop-up’ style animations, it is short and accompanied by relaxing piano music that is ideal for settling down at nighttime. The book has a similar style to the Peter Rabbit ebook with lots of touchable elements that bounce slightly like a true pop-up book. There are also delightful touches, like water faucets that turn on and off, bubbles that float across the page to be popped with a tap, and even a foam that covers the screen after they brush their teeth (you wipe it away with your fingers). Read more …
The classic story of a little boy and his purple crayon comes to life in this book app in a way that enhances the original 1955 print title without losing any of its brilliance. Over 50 years later, this story still captures the creativity and imagination of childhood with simple line drawings and slowly paced text. As a digital offering, the story comes to life even more, giving a whole new generation of children the magical feeling that comes with anticipating what Harold will draw next. This is a great example of how a digital book can elicit a certain nostalgia from adults while still ‘wowing’ the little ones. Read more …
Miss Spider stars in this popular book series by author David Kirk, and fans of this title on the bookshelf (published in 2006) will want to download a copy of their favorite Miss Spider tale for bedtime in digital form. The ‘play’ feature is basically an animated movie packaged into the book, lasting over 12 minutes. Once you are in the reading mode of the book, the interactivity brings the story alive and adds a magical quality to the whole experience. The audio is crisp & lovely with nice, relaxing background music that makes it lovely at bedtime, although there are many games and interactive elements that could be too stimulating for some children. Read more …
Nighty Night! begins with, “Night falls. The moon is high. All the people are ready to sleep as they turn off the lights. But wait! Look at the farmhouse. There are still some lights on. The animals are sleepy, too. Do you want to turn off the lights?” A peaceful farm appears, where you can tap on any one of seven lit areas on the page. The next scene shows an animal still awake (with a light switch nearby). Tap the switch (each light & switch is different) and the animal settles into sleep, closing their eyes. This app has no text, however, there is a ‘non-narrated mode’ that functions more like a digital ‘wordless picture book’. Read more …
“Night is falling in the savanna …” begins this short digital picture book. It features richly illustrated pages with a ‘textured’ appearance that softens the safari in a lovely way. Young readers get to help adorable wild animals prepare for the night on each page. This seven page journey has the child tap on each baby animal to help them with a task. Help the giraffe reach leaves to eat, the rhino take a bath and the baby monkey swing into his mother’s arms. Only the last page has a slight twist, tapping the sun instead to cause it to set. The light interactivity and animation is very well done, enhancing the story without overstimulating a child before bed. Read more …
Top 15 BEST Bedtime Book Apps – Coming Soon!
Our final list will be of individual book apps, mostly from small publishers. These are all titles that we think are just top notch for bedtime reading – the best of the best. Expect it very soon!