My Grade 3/4 e-book unit was so successful that there was demand from other teachers to teach more reading! An app called Booksy was already on our school iPads, so I thought I would try it out.
Booksy is for reading with younger children. It opens to an iBooks-esque cover view carousel. It was easy for my senior kindergarten class to choose from the six pre-installed books and open one up.
The books present in a fixed layout with illustrations and non-reflowable text. That could be a potential drawback if you are working with students who need or want a bigger print size. But the app has robust read-aloud features. You can tap on the speech bubble and get the whole page read to you, or you can tap on individual words and have them read as well.
Additionally, there is a ‘record’ button, a neat touch. A parent or teacher could read a page to the child, and the child could play it back later. We did not use this feature during my lesson, but I could see it being a great add-on for parents.
The in-app store is protected by a math question to keep little kids out of there without parental supervision, and I appreciated that. The books were decently priced too, and ranged from $0.99 for a single book to $4.99 for a multi-pack of ten.
Unfortunately, the app store was extremely limited in its selection. Aside from the six pre-installed books, there were two ten-packs available, and perhaps a dozen loose titles—in total. There was no searching or filtering either. Just browse, and buy. That’s it. And because of the audio feature must require special formatting to activate, you can’t read your own books.
I am still debating whether we’ll buy the extra book packs or not. Only a few were marked ‘level 3’ and my school heavily pushes reading. Most of the kids will outgrow the easier books before the term is out. I’m not sure it merits investing for dozens of books which are all at the same level.
I did find this app much easier than iBooks for use with very young kids. They loved having the book read to them (although note, you will need headphones for each student if you plan to teach this for a class and not go crazy!) and they easily grasped the e-book-related terminology we used and the benefits of reading on a device.
But the app store is just so limited. I’d need at least three multipacks at each of four levels to make this useful to me. Otherwise, I may as well just forgo the audio features and teach them to use iBooks from the get-go.