Wednesday, March 23, 2011
“But papyrus scrolls feel
so much better!” Such were the cries of lamentation heard across the ancient world as papyrus scrolls were replaced by that new-fangled Roman invention the codex, or book. “Why do I have to flip these – what are they called? pages? The scrolls ran so smoothly under my hand, they signified a seamless flow of knowledge, a noble tradition, now it’s all chopped up into scraps signifying nothing …” The Luddites
’ fretful complaints drone on down the centuries, ever eloquent in bemoaning the end of civilization as we know it, while civilization as we aren’t quite used to it yet is busy being born. The invention of the printing press
was the work of the devil according to these doomsayers, and maybe they were right because it did spread those dangerous things called ideas to the previously unlettered masses. They began thinking for themselves, founding new churches, having revolutions, writing novels that sent Victorian ladies into a swoon, and reading everything from the Bible and Shakespeare to tabloid gossip and vampire boyfriend sagas. Where will it all end? Not with a bang or a whimper apparently, but with a tweet.
The digital revolution is upon us and my grandchildren will grow up in the first fully digital generation. It is bringing out the Luddites once again; check out this cartoon
, which at least adds humor to the traditional diatribe. Determined not to join the chorus of old fogies – even though that role is getting age appropriate for me – I bought an iPad and began exploring the world of children’s apps to share with my grandsons. Here is what I have discovered so far: like any other medium - books, films, music, you name it – the good, the bad, and the mediocre are all out there. Just as librarians select and recommend the best books for children, so we can help sort out the sheep from the goats when it comes to apps. If you’ve heard the horror stories about the Smurfs game
and don’t want your child playing Angry Birds
all day, here’s a sampling of the best apps for the very young tested on my own 1 and 3 year old grandchildren.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider.
Children touch the spider to start the song and watch him climb the water spout, then touch other objects for entertaining actions – make water gush from the downspout, see a caterpillar change into a butterfly, and more. Beautiful graphics, and the singer sounds so much better than I do!
Colorful fish and lively music teach letters, numbers, and colors with interactive games including matching and which one’s different? A low-key, fun way to learn.
. Perfect for children who know their letters and are ready to start recognizing words. Settings allow parents to choose the difficulty level – three or four letter words, matching the letters or filling in the blanks etc. Note: this bird is not angry and doesn't attack any pigs!
Popout! The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
This interactive classic presents the original text and illustrations in pop-up form, with the advantage that the tabs don’t get torn by tiny fingers! Parents can turn the narration off so they can read to their child. Beginning readers get help with unfamiliar words: touch the screen to hear the word. Twittering birds, hopping bunnies, and gently falling leaves bring Beatrix Potter’s natural world to life. A beautiful app that shows the potential for digital books. The Washington Post Book World editors like Peter Rabbit too! They include it in this list of the best picture book apps
in the Spring Children’s Book Review section.
I know my grandsons will be reading and learning in both print and digital formats in the future. Introducing them to the iPad hasn’t dampened their enthusiasm for books; it is just another way to enjoy stories together. Maybe when they grow old they will look back with nostalgia on that hopelessly old-fashioned device their grandmother shared with them. And maybe in that brave new world, as information is beamed directly into their brains, some people will cling to their electronic devices and predict the end of civilization, as so many generations have done before them.
One thing I’ve learned in three months with my iPad – Marshall McLuhan
was wrong. The medium is not the message. The medium is just the device. Stories are forever.