Dyslexic Child Chooses Book Apps Over Games – Guest Article by Karen Robertson

Two years ago, a miracle happened when my son picked up an iPad for the first time and chose storybook apps over games! This was a miracle because he’s dyslexic, so reading is one of the last things he wants to do. Now, book apps are an important part of our reading routine and deliver guilt-free screen time when he wants to “play.”

Dyslexia is a general term for disorders that involve difficulty in learning to read or interpret words, letters, and other symbols but do not affect general intelligence.* While statistics vary, between 7-10% of people are dyslexic and up to 15% of kids have difficulty learning to read. (*Google Dictionary)

How we use book apps as part of our reading and fun routine
We use book apps to practice reading and comprehension. For reading practice, we choose book apps that have word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase text highlighting. We’ll listen to the book first. This lets Scott hear the rhythm of language and follow along on the page. Then we’ll turn off the narration and Scott and I will take turns reading pages.

The other thing we use book apps for is comprehension. After we listen to or read the book app, I’ll ask questions about the text, just as I would a regular book. Some apps have questions at the back of the book like “Penelope the Purple Pirate.” And a new app that will be out soon, “Slibby the Snail” has a series of tasks throughout the app so the reader must listen to or read the directions to know what to do!

Why my dyslexic son likes book apps
I asked Scott why he likes book apps so much and he said it’s “because I can touch things and be part of the story.” This makes sense when I look at the types of book apps he likes best. He loves the ones where the interactivity brings the reader into the story itself.

What we look for in book apps for reluctant readers
• Engaging story
• Text highlighting
• Not too many words presented at once on the page
• Narration
• Interactivity that brings the reader into the story

What we avoid in book apps
Book apps with too many things to touch and do that aren’t relevant to the story. Excessive touch sprites are distracting and affect his attention and comprehension.

Scott’s favorite book apps
“ Monster at the End of This Book” – hilarious and engaging story with relevant interactivity, terrific narration and text highlighting.
“Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel” – Innovative use of interactivity that brings the reader into this classic story.
“Treasure Kai and the Lost Gold of Shark Island” – He’s motivated to finish this book app because the goal is to find the treasure, yet he never knows when he’s going to find it because it changes each time.

Book apps for older kids who struggle with reading
One of the challenges an older child with a reading difficulty has is finding interesting content that isn’t too young but has an easier reading level. Here is a list from Carisa Kluver of Digital Media Diet, “Recommended iPad Book Apps for Older and Reluctant Readers.”

I’m the author of the first book on her list, “Treasure Kai.” I wrote “Treasure Kai” five years ago when I struggled to find interesting content at an easier reading level and I worked with a speech pathologist and literacy tutor on the language. We’ve used phrase-based text highlighting rather than word based highlighting to facilitate reading.